Our summer this year has been one of the best. Warm and dry with splashes of heat and lacking in wind. But you know what - I have a craving for really bad weather. Not just a bit of rain but really windy and nasty. I like nothing more than battening down the hatches, finding the candles and a good blanket. The feeling that you don't have to be anywhere and, in fact, would be positively encouraged to stay indoors. Cars splashing through puddles outside, branches knocking on the window, wind whistling through miniscule gaps. Aye, I'll have a wee bit of that thanks. A wee reminder of who's in charge around here.
Posted by stupot at 11:04 AM Sunday 15 Sep
I have to say I've found an increase in awareness of cyclists by motorists in the past few years. It's still not universal but then cyclists aren't that perfect either. You could argue that with the amount of bikes on the road these days that it's in your interest to be more aware. Manslaughter is a nasty charge for being lazy with your mirror usage.
In any case, cars are very different to bikes. Notably they go a lot faster, are capable of causing great damage and motorists are surrounded by all manners of protection. It's a safe, sealed environment which adds to issues faced by those on the other side of the windscreen. Ignorance works both ways and just as non-cycling motorists may not understand how exposed you are on two wheels, non-driving cyclists may not understand how many blind spots a motorist has. Empathy and good etiquette are key.
Here are a few things I've noticed, being a driver and a cyclist, that might help us all......
1. MOTORISTS - YOU KNOW WHEN you're overtaking a massive lorry and it's very intimidating and you just want to get past it, and some times it get's a bit too close? That's what it's like having a car go past you too close. So leave a bit more room if you can. In fact - if there is a clear road - just go onto the other side of the road - it's no more expensive.
2. CYCLISTS - YOU KNOW WHEN you're at the traffic lights in your own little box and you sit in the middle of the road? Well, the box is both for lots of cyclists to occupy if it is busy but more so it is a device to keep cars back. This doesn't mean to say that you have to sit in the middle of it if you are alone and hold up traffic. Hold your own and take your space but don't give other road users good reason to get pissed off at you - lot's of us have to share it!
3. MOTORISTS - YOU KNOW WHEN you peep your horn and it doesn't sound THAT loud? Well, for everyone outside your car; pedestrians, cyclists, priests, plumbers, it sounds really loud to the point that it can unsteady you. It certainly fazes you and there's always a chance of a freak out. That's why, you know when the whole street turns around when you peep? That's because you have made a lot of people jump. So shut the fuck up unless its an emergency. Or become a taxi driver. none of these rules apply to them.
4. CYCLISTS - It's not just down to motorists - in order to greet the dawning of the all new shiny Utopia we all need to be a bit nicer to each other. Let cars out, tell them if the road is clear, acknowledge if they wait to pass at a safe place, It's not that hard.
5. MOTORISTS - BE MORE CONFIDENT - If you are going to overtake, OVERTAKE. If you do not have the confidence to make a decision or commit, get Smooth FM on and chill out until you are ready. A nervous driver makes cyclists nervous. And half committing could kill someone.
6. CYCLISTS - If a motorist endangers your life make sure you have a carbohydrate solution in your bottle. When you spray this on the interior of a car it is very hard to remove.
7. MOTORISTS - MOMENTUM, BASIC PHYSICS - Cycling is a healthy way to travel. Some sections of the scientific community are even suggesting that it may be a greener mode of transport to motor cars. Mumbo Jumbo aside, cycling takes a lot of effort. Every pause in the journey means the rider has to push on the pedals and exert great effort to reach the speed at which they was going previously. So when a cyclist is approaching a set of red lights for example, and they are freewheeling, there is a good chance they are doing what's called 'conserving energy'. Instead of trying to get past them at any cost why don't you try to conserve energy in your car? it means you won't burn as much fuel and you will also be able to get in to bed at night knowing you aren't, what's known in the cycling community, an arsehole.
8. CYCLISTS - shut it.
9. MOTORISTS - calm down.
Posted by stupot at 04:46 PM Sunday 25 Aug
If you're from Yorkshire or Scotland, are wrapping a present and are so tight that you don't cut quite enough length to get a full coverage, turn the object at 45° and try again. You should now achieve over-lap. This was taught to me not in Japan, but by an old family friend who has a very practical brain. The photo shows a recent student milliseconds before enlightenment.
Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Friday 23 Aug
July has always been a special month for me - the obvious childhood links of being on your summer holidays probably laid the foundations but the realities of adult working life means that by far, the Tour de France is what makes the month. At worst, a Eurosport pop-out window sits in the corner of my monitor most days. On top of that, this year has seen an unusually beautiful summer of high pressure, lots of travelling, two large jobs coming to an end and business generally on the up.
I started the month busy, working in London for a few days before a week of moving about to Fife for a partial install and then off to Barcelona for the 4th Urban Sketchers Symposium. It was then back to Scotland before heading to the Isle of Man, on to Edinburgh to meet a new client and then straight to Dunoon for a weekend of old friends, another weekend away in Newcastle and ending up with a final site visit to Douglas. You will forgive me for being a bit tired. I could easily not have gone to Barcelona but work has been so constant and I have found (valid) excuses not to make the other conferences that it felt almost necessary to kickstart my involvement in USK.
The highlight was inevitably Barcelona - what an utterly great city. The experience of meeting some of my drawing heros and managing to draw with them and find out about what makes them tick was fascinating.
The city was hot, busy but also welcoming, diverse, creatively inspiring. And there was a beach! I need to move over there! It almost made Ryanair palatable.
Posted by stupot at 05:57 PM Friday 2 Aug
My eyesight is not so bad - It was one of the few things that I used to pride myself on being in complete control of. I used to put it down to my love of raw carrots. Like so many other parts of my body though, I now need a wee bit of extra help. The thing is I can function at near distance with very few problems and even some things that are a bit further away I can squint to see.
But that's not really good enough if you either have a. any standards or b. make your living from being visual. Details are crucial for me - from understanding a subject I am drawing to rehashing that into a design I make later - it's all very important to me when I give time to think about it. I get a bit of stick for having nice glasses with very little apparent function but, like the details I view, subtleties are only seen by a chosen few.
Posted by stupot at 05:35 PM Sunday 28 Jul
I’m in the middle of designing some bars at the moment and this makes me reflect on current trends and traditions. I have to admit I’m quite a traditionalist when it comes to the craft of how things are made but there’s something I’ve noticed in my neighbourhood that makes me shun this view and look, unequivocally, toward the future.
Public houses, as they are traditionally known, are far from the all inclusive, co-operative the name suggests. In the west of Scotland these are predominantly male haunts where 19th century pursuits are still encouraged. Bigotry, sectarianism, cabaret signers the whole neighbourhood is subjected to and fights of a weekend all go on behind the head height walls (this is not my opinion - I have watched and listened to it for many years).
There is now just one of these left in my neighbourhood and I won’t be sad when it goes. Judging by the time they close up at night it won’t be long. The other 3 pubs now have full height glazing and all can see inside. They welcome families, dogs, traditional musicians - you name it. They have a decent food offering or restaurant and eating is encouraged. No one is falling about intoxicated.
The transparency is literal and, in this respect, I like the way society is progressing.
Posted by stupot at 03:41 PM Wednesday 24 Jul
The fact that the 100th edition Tour de France winner was from the UK, really put the cherry on the cake. In general though, and like last year, it has been a summer for minority sports to shine where football winds its weary, angry, greedy way during the dark and cold months. In my opinion it should be making way for the dedication of more hard working sports at which we excel but public opinion and press will always hold it in too high regard - it is the default sport for British youngsters but I'm happy that many people now challenge that fact. Cycling is just one sport that has been part of the revolution of people reinvesting in sports we're actually good at.
I started cycling in no small part due to Robert Millar's triumph in the King of the Mountains contest during the 1984 Tour De France. The views, the theatre, the effort, the bikes, the colours. It was all much more interesting than getting the wind kicked out of me on a damp Rugby pitch in South Ayrshire. By the time I started cycling proper it was probably 1989, the year Greg Lemond won the Tour by 8 seconds. The eighties were full of incredible tour stories and then came the nineties and the monotony of Big MIg, the Festina scandal and general lack of interest in the sport. In the late eighties though cycling couldn't have been more out of fashion. The thought that struck me recently was that time period, from 1990 - 2000 was probably it's lowest ebb.
Titles were being won - even Obree was doing his bit in Norway - but there seemed very little interest. I went to art school and sport fell away quickly. it was only coming out the other side and having enough money after a few years of employment that allowed me to buy a proper bike and get into the swing again. Lance's era, no matter what the final outcome is, was epic - he made people talk about the sport and it simmered in the background. I started racing in 2003 and continued in Japan up until around 2006. My asthma and general tiredness was never going to make me a contender but touring and hill climbs remained floating my boat during my time away and after my return to Scotland.
Cycling has been a minority pursuit all my life until the past few years when it is heart warming to see so many people on the streets getting fit and 2 consecutive years seeing a British team winning the biggest trophy of all.
May the momentum stay for a very long time.
Posted by stupot at 06:09 PM Saturday 22 Jun
Last Thursday I went to the best bar I've been in in a long time.
I'd met up with a fellow sketcher in Malaga (Luis) and received a great tour of the city. I hadn't been doing much reading up as I'd been to the region before so I gladly sucked up all the information. When we drew at the meat market (I chose after I'd seen a sketch of his there), he told me that amongst other things (Original Moorish entrance had been incorporated, fishmongers were not present due to the bank holiday etc) that the coast line used to be just outside the front door. Now this is not Japanese scale but there had nevertheless been a lot of reclaimed land over the past few hundred years - actually it was more reminiscent of Hong Kong.
The bar we went to was just down the lane and another coast line, a few hundred years back. There are stacked, fortified wine barrels and some bench tables in front. in between there are old men in white coats serving a steady stream of customers and scrawling their bill, in chalk, a top the tables. There were other things - a few chest freezers, a glass fronted fridge to another wall with tapas inside - but broadly the basis of the business was that simple. Traditionally a sailors hangout it was now a decent mix of tourists and locals without it feeling that it had lost all its charm.
The point here is that you can pour design and finishes into a hostelry but as long as you have a good product, are welcoming and don't rip people off, you can have as honest and basic an interior as you please.
Posted by stupot at 09:23 PM Monday 6 May
So the whole pre racing season chat and comment in the cycling rags was, amongst all the poker faced predictions, about how unaffordable the new Rapha / Sky kit is. Despite an appreciation of quality and considered detailing, journalists err on the side of popular opinion and subtitle a top rating with the drawback of price. If they were being truly honest they would mark it down. The reason they don't? Because they know this is the best cycling kit by a mile. I am not disputing the kit is much more expensive than anything other professional teams are wearing (brand new full set of kit for any pro team will still put you back hundreds of pounds) but here are two things that concern me about:
ILL JUDGED COMPARISONS
Punters make a direct correlation between one product and another, whilst the companies that produce these make very different Ethical choices (using a specific supplier), Design (making something more enjoyable and comfortable to use) and sales (quality control and managing returns). Comparing a burger from your local butcher to one that is frozen and processed, kind of defeats the purpose.
People always want a good deal (myself included) and seldomly question the reasons why something retails cheaply. I went through a period 10 years ago when I bought independent brands of clothing. I could afford them because I knew the owner of the shop and he gave a discount. Cheap these were not, however some of the pieces still get used, commented on favourably and are not ready to be binned. What this insight did was make me buy less but better quality: not for fashion or vanity but because I knew the clothes were well put together and would last.
Buy cheap if you want but you'll end up with the same cost!
Posted by stupot at 01:49 PM Sunday 24 Feb
It now appears that I am going to vote YES at the impending referendum on Sottish Independence.
I don't think of myself as Nationalist but I've always been an Independent - although not necessarily in the context of National questions (Perhaps like others, the thought has only been in my mind for 5 years - before this I had never considered it). I have no allegiance to one political party and vote differently at local and national levels. I read updates from both sides on the debate of going solo.
Posted by stupot at 10:46 AM Wednesday 6 Feb