#5000colo Day 7: Coastal Capers

Distance travelled: 28.88 miles
Cumulative distance: 183.42 miles
Distance remaining: 4816.58 miles
Percentage complete: 3.67
Villages visited: Filby, Thrigby, Mautby, Runham, Stokesby, Billockby, Clippesby, Thurne, Ashby with Oby, Fleggburgh, Rollesby, Ormesby St Michael, Ormesby St Margaret, Scratby, California, West Caister, Caister on Sea.

A real up-and-down sort of a ride, despite the lack of undulation in the terrain. It started really nicely, rolling through Thrigby, Mautby and Runham against a pale pearlescent silver sky; I stopped and photographed the village sign, which was surrounded by bright pink flowers.

As I rolled towards Stokesby, I noticed that a few fields over, running parallel to me, was the set-square-straight tarmac artery of the Acle Straight, carrying the traffic to and fro between Acle and Great Yarmouth.

It had all started beautifully; however, in a microcosm of life, a few obstacles were about to present themselves. Firstly, a couple of near misses on the A1064; impatient drivers squeezing past me with inches to spare, one of whom shouted something unintelligible out of his window at me.

I’ve had very few problems with drivers in the 800+ miles I’ve cycled in the past few weeks, and they’ve pretty much all been on A-roads. I try to keep off them as much as possible, but sometimes it’s pretty much unavoidable… and the road surfaces do tend to be a lot better than some of the back roads!

The next problem was definitely ‘user error’; I misread the map and turned off the B1152 too early. By the time I realised I was too far down the road to make turning back a worthwhile option, so, after a stop for water, mapreading and a stretch, I decided to do the loop around Thurne in reverse.

However, a couple of miles further on, as I headed towards Repps, I realised that I’d forgotten to restart my activity on Strava. This annoyed me a lot more than it should have, but I eventually talked myself round using the logic that despite what the app says, I have still cycled the miles I’ve cycled, been to the villages I’ve been to, and done the exercise I’ve done. I’ve recalculated the route and added the missing miles, so no harm done.

Onwards to Fleggburgh, then Rollesby, and another busy stretch along the A149. The area around Rollesby Broad was really picturesque, but due to the volume of traffic I wasn’t really able to drink it in as I’d have liked to.

A couple of Ormesbys later (St Michael and St Margaret), and the ‘saddle sore’ was back with a vengeance; the worst I’ve experienced so far. Thankfully I had brought a tiny pot of chamois cream with me for the first time, which I’d decanted from my big tub just this morning. Boy, did I need it.

The magic potion worked its charm, and I was back in the saddle with renewed vigour for the final stretch. Up to Scratby, then down the curiously named Rottenstone Lane to the even more curiously named caravan estate of California.

Then it was yet more hairy A-road riding, along the Caister bypass. A quick loop round through West Caister, rolling downhill past the scenic Caister Castle, then into Caister itself and a finish line right on the beach.

A challenging ride today, no doubt about it. Katie came to meet me at the finish, and we treated ourselves to a G&T, fish and chips and a fiver’s worth of 2p coins for the inevitable and childlike joy of the coin pushers.

My plan is to power through tomorrow’s ride, and then possibly have a break on Saturday to let the sore bits recover…

#5000colo Day 6: Blackberries and Barbara

Distance travelled: 20.96 miles
Cumulative distance: 154.54 miles
Distance remaining: 4845.46 miles
Percentage complete: 3.09
Villages visited: Lakenham, Keswick, Swardeston, Mulbarton, Bracon Ash, Swainsthorpe, Stoke Holy Cross, Saxlingham Nethergate, Shotesham, Newton Flotman.

Today I went on a very important mission. During lockdown, I had volunteered with the parish council to help elderly neighbours who were shielding.

What started as a weekly shopping trip to buy essentials for Barbara quickly grew into a friendship; my wife and I would pop round to have a chat with her and water her plants for her.

Barbara then had a fall in her home, and was taken to hospital for treatment; she tested positive for Covid-19. After fighting and beating the virus, she was allowed back home again.

Sadly, she then suffered the loss of her best friend, and shortly after that she had another fall. She spent several weeks in hospital, and has now been moved to respite care while her family try to find her a suitable care home.

Katie and I decided to pop down to Newton Flotman to visit her, so it was an obvious chance for me to tick off some more villages. Katie drove down in the car and picked up some of Barbara’s favourite things en route.

To say she was surprised to see us was an understatement! She’s been in isolation for the two weeks since she left the hospital, with no visitors allowed (we were permitted to speak to her through the window).

Tomorrow, she will finally be allowed out of her room to go and meet other residents and take part in the activities in the home. If you’re feeling a little bit glum today, just imagine what the last two weeks have been like for Barbara.

Make every day count, and count your blessings. If you’re reading this and you’re able-bodied, with a roof over your head, food on the table and the company of friends and/or family, take a moment to cherish those things.

In other news (and be warned, this is utterly thrilling), I picked some blackberries on the way down to Newton Flotman. Picking blackberries always gives me a nostalgic twinge as I remind myself of childhood walks.

#5000colo Day 5: The Nest

Distance travelled: 26.26 miles
Cumulative distance: 133.58 miles
Distance remaining: 4866.42 miles
Percentage complete: 2.67
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Horsford, Felthorpe, Upgate, Swannington, Little Witchingham, Great Witchingham, Lenwade, Morton, Attlebridge, Thorpe Marriott, Horsham St Faith.

I planned a local route today, although I need to be mindful that I’ll quickly run out of villages within easy riding distance if I keep riding from home!

It was an absolute pleasure to stop at The Nest, which is Norwich City Community Sports Foundation’s site (the old Anglian Windows site near the airport).

I met Emma Fletcher, who is the Senior Fundraising and Events Manager for CSF, and she gave me a guided tour of the facilities. I had no idea quite how many different programmes and projects CSF has on the go, and I’m really keen to go back and get involved in some of them as the year progresses.

The second stage of The Nest is well underway: a purpose-built new facility will house a wide array of changing rooms, multi-use spaces and a separate IT learning space.

I’m really proud to be raising funds for (and awareness of) the CSF’s outstanding work throughout Norfolk; you can find out more about what they do here, and more about The Nest here.

Outside The Nest with Emma Fletcher from CSF.

#5000colo Day 4: Hot and Flat

Distance travelled: 23.29 miles
Cumulative distance: 107.32 miles
Distance remaining: 4892.68 miles
Percentage complete: 2.04
Villages visited: Sea Palling, Waxham, Horsey, Somerton, Winterton-on-Sea, Hemsby, Martham, Repps with Bastwick, Potter Heigham, Catfield, Hickling.

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, so I decided to head out towards the coast. I thought it made sense to choose a relatively flat route, as it was still pretty warm.

I rolled down the coast road, through perennial camping hotspot Waxham, and stopped at Horsey to get a photo with the bike in front of the mill.

There was a wonderful sunset as I rode west through Martham, and there were some beautifully desolate back roads running up from Potter Heigham through Catfield and across to Hickling.

I’m still struggling to find a rhythm with the publicity side of things; it would make sense for me to announce my route the day before, in case anyone wants to support me for the following day’s ride.

I’m still trying to find some sponsorship, too, so if anyone knows a local company who might be interested in supporting me in exchange for as much publicity as I can muster, please put them in touch!

#5000colo Day 3: Ringland Bad, Wramplingham Good

Distance travelled: 23.43 miles
Cumulative distance: 84.03 miles
Distance remaining: 4915.97 miles
Percentage complete: 1.68
Villages visited: Hellesdon, Drayton, Taverham, Ringland, Easton, Marlingford, Colton, Barford, Wramplingham, Great Melton, Hethersett, Wymondham.

Today was pretty tough. Much slower than the last couple of days, although that may be to do with the extended elevation, the increased temperature, or just a bit of cumulative tiredness. The Ringland Hills were particularly taxing; I barely made it to the top in the lowest gear.

I started warming into it as the ride went on, and by the time I hit 20 miles I was ready to keep going! Still, I need to keep half an eye on the saddle sore situation, as I don’t want to overdo it so early in the ride and end up having to take time out.

I found a nice little curiosity in the tiny village of Wramplingham; the village sign is actually planted in the river!

#5000colo Day 2: The 12th Man Social Ride

Distance travelled: 28.2 miles
Cumulative distance: 60.6 miles
Distance remaining: 4939.4 miles
Percentage complete: 1.21
Villages visited: Trowse, Kirby Bedon, Bramerton, Claxton, Ashby St Mary, Thurton, Bergh Apton, Alpington, Poringland, Framingham Earl, Caistor St Edmund.

This morning I went on a group ride with The 12th Man, one of the organisations for which I’m fundraising. Their mission is to encourage men to speak more openly about their mental health.

They offer free Mental Health First Aid training to organisations such as barbers, tattoo shops, pubs, menswear stores, taxis and van-based trades, and I’m hoping to do one of their courses in the very near future. You can find out more about what they do here.

My ride was a bit slower today, and I had a couple of points where I really ‘hit the wall’. I’m a little bit ‘saddle sore’, too, but hopefully that will stay at a manageable level so I don’t need too much time off. I managed to power through in the end, though, and then stopped for a coffee and a chat at Tim’s house. Tim is one of the ride organisers, and he also runs Bicycle Links on King Street.

Tim’s a real gent, and he’s arranged for Bicycle Links to sponsor my ride by offering me free advice and maintenance, plus cut-price gear and parts. Bicycle Links also does a lot of brilliant ‘social enterprise’ stuff. They donate restored bikes to asylum seekers and refugees, and offer free bicycle hire to people looking to start cycling. You can find out more about the brilliant work they do here.

Remember, if you want to ride with me, meet up with me, talk to me about sponsorship or have any kind of interaction at all, just drop a comment below or email me at colofivethousand@gmail.com.

Tomorrow I’m off in the direction of Wymondham, but I’m already looking ahead to next week. Any ideas where I should head, folks?

#5000colo Day 1: We’re Off!

Distance travelled: 32.4 miles
Distance remaining: 4967.6 miles
Percentage complete: 0.65
Villages visited: Sprowston, Great Plumstead, Witton, Little Plumstead, Salhouse, Woodbastwick, Ranworth, South Walsham, Upton, Panxworth, Hemblington, Blofield Heath, Rackheath.

Well, that was nice. The weather was ideal, and it felt great to be back on the bike. I didn’t feel particularly exhausted at the end, which is encouraging considering it was my first ride in 12 days.

I’m still trying to find a definitive list of Norfolk villages; apparently Blofield Heath is a hamlet that’s part of Blofield, so I’m not sure whether to ignore it or tick Blofield off the list. I’ll still need to do Brundall and Postwick at some point, so I guess I’ll do Blofield again anyway.

I’ve felt a little less overwhelmed than I did yesterday; the sheer intensity of the launch and the corresponding publicity was quite exhausting. It was liberating to be back in the saddle, and it’s good to redress the publicity-to-cycling ratio a bit.

I’ve also spoken to my GP today and we’ve agreed to increase my medication; I switched from Citalopram to Sertraline a couple of weeks ago, and while the switch hasn’t been as bad as I’d imagined, there have been some really intense moments of anxiety that I’ve struggled with.

I need to let this challenge unfold slowly; currently I’m investing far too much time in social media, desperately trying to connect with people and grow my reach. I need to keep reminding myself that the reach will grow organically. Keep turning the pedals, and the rest will come in the fullness of time.

Tomorrow morning I’m off to ride with the awesome guys from The 12th Man, which is one of the organisations I’m raising money for. You can find out more about them at 12th-man.org.uk, but their campaign is centred around helping men to speak more openly about their mental health.

This is ‘mile zero’.

#5000colo Day 0: The Bottom of the Mountain

A ride on the bike, a roll in the hay…

I am at the bottom of the mountain. It’s a long, long way to the top.

5,000 miles, in fact.

As I write this, my campaign will launch in one hour’s time on ITV Anglia News (awkward lycra screenshots above). Already, I feel almost overwhelmed by the level of admin, social media, emails and conversations I’m generating; and this is before I even get on the bike.

I will get on the bike, though. Tomorrow I’ll set off on my first ride, ticking off the first tiny tranche of villages on my hundreds-long hitlist.

I know there will come a moment when I roll into the final uncharted village on my epic challenge; I don’t know when, or where, that will be. What I do know is that, by then, my life will have changed markedly.

I am going to learn so much about myself in the next 5,000 miles: I’m going to listen, I’m going to learn, I’m going to share, and I’m going to grow.

Some days, I’m going to feel pretty lame. Sometimes I’m going to be snarky, or reply to an email or message in haste and later wish I hadn’t. Some days I’m going to glide through a dozen villages feeling like an intrepid adventurer, and get home feeling like a Tour de France champion.

This ride will be a microcosm of life, and that’s not just using the elevation profile of my route as a lazy metaphor about ‘ups and downs’. I will feel pain, elation, confusion, hopefulness, hopelessness, relief and despair. I might even learn how to change an inner tube.

In the words of Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks: “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”

Come on then, Norfolk, let’s be having you.


Tuesday morning tips: advanced apostrophes

We generated some good discussion last week off the back of Apostrophe 101 (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/tuesday-morning-tips-apostrophe-101-matt-colley/). As a further tribute to the sterling work of John Richards, I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the apostrophe this week; it’ll be a shorter lesson, but one that I hope will allow you to use our little friend with increased confidence.

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Above: this is you, smashing the apostrophe.

1. The ‘false friend’

A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun, such as ‘he’, ‘you’ and ‘we’. All pronouns have possessive versions of them: for example, if it belongs to ‘he’, it is ‘his’. If it belongs to ‘we’, it is ‘ours’. These possessive pronouns, although they indicate possession, do not have apostrophes.

This leads us to probably the most common misuse of the apostrophe: its. The word its means ‘belonging to it’, as in: “The tree was bare; it had lost its leaves.” The word only has an apostrophe when it’s a shortened version of it is (as with the instance earlier in this sentence). Where the apostrophe is concerned, it’s clear that it’s going to take a while to perfect its usage. Got it? It’s easy when you know how!

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Above: this tree has lost its leaves. Don’t worry, they’ll grow back.

2. Decades of doubt

Last week we touched upon plurals of initials and capital letters. Our CDs and DVDs never take apostrophes (hey, that was quite poetic). Similarly, when we refer to decades we don’t put an apostrophe before the following ‘s’. That’s how it was done in the 1860s, and in the 1960s, and that’s how it’s done in the present day.

However, sometimes we abbreviate those decades. If someone refers to the swinging 60s, you naturally assume they mean the 1960s. However, because we’ve removed the ’19’ from the start, we need to replace these missing figures with an apostrophe. Therefore, it’s correct to say the swinging ’60s.

Similarly, omissions at the start of words also require apostrophes. For instance:  ‘Twas the night before Christmas. It’s a contraction of it was, so the apostrophe is required. Some old-school proofreaders will even tell you that we should say the ‘phone is ringing, as it’s a contraction of telephone, but phone is generally considered to have become a word in its own right.

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Above: a phone, back in the days when you’d call it a ‘phone.

3. The exception to the rule

There is one occasion where you can use an apostrophe to indicate a plural. If you want to pluralise a single letter, an apostrophe can give some much-needed clarity. The most common example of this is a well-used idiom to imply that you’ve finalised all the necessary details: “I’ve dotted the is and crossed the ts.” Without the apostrophes, as you can see, it’s pretty confusing. We read the word is, rather than seeing it as the plural of the letter i. Therefore, in this scenario, we’d say: “I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.”

Some style guides also suggest that a plural apostrophe could be added to single numbers, as in a pair of kings and a pair of 7’s, but this is certainly not universally accepted and personally I don’t use the apostrophe in this instance.

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Above: I see a pair of 7s.

Thanks for reading – and, as ever, just shout if you need further explanation on anything.

People notice error’s: the evidence.

Here’s something interesting. In a recent study conducted by Method Marketing, 93% of respondents said they were less likely to trust a company with spelling/grammatical errors on their website, and 94% said they were less likely to spend money with a company with errors on their site. https://www.methodmarketing.org/news/state-of-content-survey-2019-results/

Demonstrable evidence that people notice error’s!