But I can’t go back to work yet – I haven’t made a banana loaf or sourdough bread yet !
So the great lockdown of 2020 has eased. Shops are reopening, pubs have opened (and 3 have shut again immediately after having a customer test positive for coronavirus), and cafes can reopen within strict guidelines. This means I’m back to work – and I’m both excited and nervous about it.
In exactly the same way as children reach the end of the summer holidays and panic about all the exciting schemes they had planned but hadn’t got around to doing, so I feel about lockdown. I have managed quite a lot of running, and walking, and even some cycling. I have done some tasty cooking and made incredibly healthy salads. I have looked after students going through the strangeness of online university exams and finals. We have all survived, but now it’s time to re emerge into the real world.
It’ll be lovely to see my work colleagues “in 3-d” rather than in a Zoom meeting, and great to be back at The Pound again. But can I remember how to use the till, and the coffee machine, and how to speak to real people again? I guess I’ll find out…
I started this year’s challenge having just been extremely unexpectedly made redundant. I was really upset and down about this, and the couple of jobs I found that I was perfect for (in my mind!) I wasn’t even invited for interview. These rides, along with the runs that I slowly started taking (physio permitting!) gave me a chance to think about what I wanted from a job, and how I could earn some money.
By the end of Coffeeneuring I had remembered a long held dream to run a vegan cafe. I was considering taking some “food hygiene” courses as an introduction when a good friend of mine told me that the Pound Arts Centre cafe needed someone to work a couple of days a week. It’s a veggie / vegan cafe and so sounded ideal, but with my confidence pretty low I had no idea if I could actually do it.
My final Coffeeneuring ride was to go and have a good look at the cafe, to see what was on the menu, to see how it was run, and to see if the people working there seemed nice* (an important consideration!) I ended up going in for a chat with the manager, and extremely quickly was signed up for a couple of sessions to see how it went. I then found myself dropped in the deep end and was working there by myself on two very busy days just before Christmas.
I’m going back again on Monday, hopefully when it’s quieter, for some more training. I’m still unsure whether this is the new career for me, but being stubborn I’ll stick it out for a bit longer. In the meantime, all cyclists are welcome! The Arts Centre has bike racks outside, very good coffee with a great selection of cakes. (How am I doing on drumming up trade??!)
*The people working in the Art centre are all lovely, and have been soooo tolerant of my mistakes. Thankfully.
Back in the UK, my 6th Coffeeneuring ride still had an International feel, as I rode to meet my Canadian friend. (I should point out, obviously I didn’t ride to Canada, she was over visiting her family). We met at “Grounded” in Corsham, which eagle-eyed readers will remember I visited as ride number 3 this year.
We had a lovely chat, and I again treated myself to the vegan dark chocolate brownie. This brownie is so good, as we ordered I said if they didn’t have any we’d go somewhere else and I wasn’t joking.
As we said goodbye, I realised that if I popped in somewhere for another drink, then this ride could still count as a Coffeeneuring trip.
Heading on down the High Street, I parked my bike up and walked back to Previous. This is a lovely little shop, with a tiny cafe upstairs.
I bought a birthday present for a friend and then hopped upstairs for an Almond milk latte. This was very good, and almost kept me warm when I got soaked on my ride back home.
5 miles cycled, 2 hot drinks drunk, 1 lovely catch up, and 1 Coffeeneur drenched on the ride home.
Still in Berlin, I had promised my husband we could go on a “Bowie” tour of Berlin (as he is such an avid fan). We hired Donkey bikes again, and accidentally ended up with the exact same bikes as the day before (they all have names!) Much hilarity was caused when I finally realised my bike had gears – no wonder yesterday’s ride felt like hard work!
Husband had done his research, and expertly piloted us around areas of the city from Bowie’s time of living there in the 1970s with Iggy Pop. Some of these places are mentioned in the lyrics of his later song “Where are we now”, such as Potzdammer Platz and the biggest department store in Europe, KaDeWe. We found the recording studios “Hansa Records” in the pouring rain, which was rather a low point for me (but the opposite for Mr B&T!)
I insisted on an early coffee stop (just to make sure it would be a Coffeeneuring ride – priorities, right?) at a denns biomarkt for an organic coffee and a snack that was marked as Vegan but I’m still not really sure what it was (slightly sweet, flaky pastry ish).
I had been worried about cycling around a city, and an unfamiliar foreign city at that, but I was surprised to find that drivers were very aware of cyclists and no one seemed to mind if you hopped onto the pavement for a short section if it was safer. I just wish such tolerance could be exported back to the UK!
Rather a soggy day, but 8.5 miles ridden around Berlin, a strong coffee with an unidentifiable snack, and one happy husband!
International coffeeneuring this time (or should that be Kaffeneuring?) A short trip to Berlin coupled with husband’s aversion to walking, plus a flat city that is used to cyclists meant that I was easily persuaded to explore on 2 wheels.
We used one of the many, clever apps available these days to hire “donkey” bikes. We chose these mainly because they had a handy holder for a phone on the front handlebars, meaning we could use Google Maps to safely navigate us around the city.
We had (accidentally) managed to arrive in the week before the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. This meant that the city was full of displays and exhibits and interesting ‘stuff’ to look at. It was maybe a little ironic that as part of the forthcoming celebrations a massive stage blocked the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
Total ride was 11.5 miles, 1 good strong soya latte was drunk (we found the Einstein chain of coffee shops had soya milk), and many tourist sites visited.
My third Coffeeneuring trip this year, no cake so far, but my hopes were high for Grounded in Corsham. This lovely cafe does offer a Vegan cooked breakfast which was my fallback treat in case of cake-failure.
A fairy speedy ride out to our closest small town, and having remembered a bike lock this time I didn’t have to bother any window cleaners to keep my bike safe, unlike last time (see here!)
I headed inside, ordered my coffee and with baited breathe asked if they had any vegan cakes. “Oh – only the dark chocolate brownie”. ONLY??? It was amazingly good, and because it was dark chocolate not too sweet.
I ate it all too quickly, and then decided I’d better put some effort into the ride home to burn it off!
Still enthused about this year’s Coffeeneuring challenge, when my car was booked into the garage for its annual service and MOT I decided to squeeze my bike into the boot and then cycle home (via a cafe) whilst I waited.
First part of the plan worked like a charm. After dropping off the car I cycled down into town towards one of my favourite coffee shops, Coffee#1 on Chippenham’s High Street. This cafe has really friendly staff, a range of dairy-free milks and offers a very fine vegan chocolate tiffin-style cake. Optimistic of not having to make do with a packet of crisps this time, I was practically salivating at the thought of this treat as I cycled up the High Street*.
At this point – I had a sudden horrible thought. I’d remembered my bike, I’d picked up my helmet, I had cash to spend – but I’d forgotten to pick up a bike lock. Chippenham is hardly the crime capital of North Wiltshire, but I still wouldn’t leave my lovely Trek there, unlocked and out of my sight. Somewhat less enthusiastically (in fact, I nearly turned around and headed straight for home) I carried on, thinking I might be able to order a takeaway coffee whilst keeping my eyes on my bike propped up against the window. Or wheel my bike inside. Or just shout my order in from the doorway. Or .. or … or ask the lovely window cleaner who was hard at work cleaning the cafe’s front windows. Bless him, he said of course he’d watch my bike whilst I ran inside to use the toilet and buy my coffeeneuring reward.
My chocolate treat was in sight! I propped my bike against a table, out of his way, and dashed inside, only to have my hopes dashed when I was told they hadn’t received any cakes that morning. They did at least have soya milk, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip, but I’m starting to worry that the theme of my rides this year might be NO CAKE!
Total ride was 4.5 miles, drink was a soya latte, cafe was Coffee#1, window cleaner was a top bloke.
* For anyone local, this was before 9:30am so the High Street was still open to traffic. You didn’t think I was cycling through a pedestrianised zone, did you??!
The days are getting shorter, the weather is colder, I feel like hibernating, it can only mean one thing – It’s time for Coffeeneuring! (Explanation of what Coffeeneuring is given here, but briefly it’s a challenge over 7 weeks or so to get out on your bike and simply go for a coffee (other suitable drinks are available). 7 weeks, 7 rides, 7 different cafes).
Starting this year as keen as a keen thing, I decided to cycle to tai chi, and then call in at the local farm shop cafe to see if they’ve managed any vegan cakes yet. Or at least, a non-angry way of telling customers that they are very sorry, but they don’t have any cakes suitable for a vegans diet (which would be a change to last year’s experience here!)
In my mind, I would cycle effortlessly to town. I would float into class all pink cheeked from the fresh air, and remove my helmet with a hair toss worthy of a shampoo advert. The reality was an incredibly muddy slog in, then an inability to find anywhere to park my bike resulting in it having to be chained to a small tree and a hasty scramble up the stairs to avoid being late. Taking my trainers off I realised I was splashed with mud nearly up to my knees. Those who remember “The Royle Family” will appreciate I could hear, in the voice of Jim Royce, “serene, my @rse!”
Never mind, I enjoyed the lesson and retrieving my bike I headed out to Allington Farm Shop. This is a lovely, and very popular cafe (with bike racks) and I took the last table between a group of mummies chatting about their husbands and a pair of silver haired ladies gossiping about friends. Yes, the cafe had soya milk, but yet again my enquiry about the possibility of a vegan cake was met with a very short “no”. Ah well, Biscoff biscuit and a packet of crisps it was, then back home through the mud again for a change of trousers.
Coffeeneuring 2019 #1 completed! October 16th 2019, 7 miles
Saturday 12th October 2019 was parkrun day, like any other Saturday, but more particularly it was parkrun away day. Well, for the Chippenham Harriers (my running club) it was, anyway. The coach was booked, seats purchased, plans made. The destination was to be Somerdale Pavilions parkrun, not too far away from Chippenham and home of the famous “Curly Wurly”.
The parkrun is in Keynsham, in the grounds of the now closed and redeveloped Cadbury factory. The trek over soggy fields to another soggy field was not inviting, but the veritable maze of tape marking the route was. I’ll post my Strava trace of the run which hopefully will illustrate what I mean:-
and the close up of the Curly Wurly:-
Nothing illustrates the Curly Wurly better than this video made by Mike, one of the Club stalwarts (and a former Chairman of our club). I finally appear at 4 minutes in (wearing a red t-shirt under my Harriers vest). Turn the sound on – the tune is called “The Curly Wurly!
And before anyone snitches to my physio, yes I ran but I also walked. I tried my best to “run clever”, but I also just enjoyed myself. Fabulous!