Dabbler Diary – Wiggins Effect

To Hereford, on business. I’d never been before and was looking forward to it. It rained very heavily throughout my visit and the cathedral was closed.


Oh goody, we have a pandemic of inactivity. The 10 o’clock Beeb news got into a fine logical tangle with a piece asking “what has gone wrong?” since those halcyon days when everyone had a manual job and, of course, a much shorter life expectancy. Couldn’t it just be that ‘inactivity’ is ‘killing’ us because other, more dangerous things are no longer getting there first?  Journalists are always getting into logical tangles. A good one I saw (again) the other week argued that internet-users ‘aren’t taking security seriously’ because the most popular password that people use is password. But of course, this doesn’t prove anything, because something has to be the most popular password, and it would be mighty odd if the winner was along the lines of Ax377!D14. The only relevant stat relating to security attitudes would be one showing whether more or fewer people are choosing password as their password, and on that matter the report was silent.


To Sidmouth, on business. Majestic tall red cliffs on the Jurassic coast. I think I could just about make them out through the miserable, relentless, driving bloody rain.


The excellent Daniel Kalder posted last week on the subtle question of good-bad and plain bad-bad films, and in the comments Worm mentions the particular awfulness of British movies. And indeed the two films I’d nominate for Worst Ever are both British: Rancid Aluminium, a witless gangland comedy-thriller made by a bunch of Primrose Hill plonkers, and Ken Loach’s tone-deaf  Looking for Eric. But I wonder if the cringe factor is ramped up for me because they are British? Foreignness can add an undeserved veneer of exotic classiness to a film or TV series, and it’s harder to judge the verisimilitude. Borgen and The Killing are certainly flattered by their subtitles. And some Americans seem to think that Downton Abbey is upmarket.


A Scotsman reaches the Wimbledon final and is only denied the title by the greatest player of all time. The England cricket team has now reached such a level of consistent excellence that they can whitewash both the West Indies and Australia (the twin terrors of my youth) by mid-summer and nobody is much surprised. These are remarkable days for British sport. But the achievement of Bradley Wiggins in becoming the first rosbif to win the Tour de France surely tops the lot. Wiggins really looks like a cyclist (like the ones in Belleville Rendezvous – long, mountain-goatish features accentuated by those retro sideburns). Not only that, but we got second-place too: Chris Froome, who might even be the Miguel Indurain to Wiggins’ Pedro Delgado – the trusty lieutenant who serves his time then goes on to dwarf his master’s achievements. Success breeds success in sport, so we can expect more British road cycling excellence in future years, but the immediate Wiggins Effect will be an even greater proliferation in the number of middle-aged men on needlessly expensive bicycles, tummies bulging out of skin-tight lycra as they puff around the ring road pretending to be the King of the Mountains.


To Exeter, on business. And to have another gape at the cathedral of course, which boasts the longest continuous medieval vaulted roof in the world. In recent years they’ve added to Exeter city centre one of those clean, red-brick shopping/leisure complexes that seem to come pre-fabricated in a box and are now everywhere. You open up the packaging and out pops an indoor/outdoor style arcade containing a strict roster of chain restaurants: Nandos, Café Rouge, Giraffe, Coal, Yo! Sushi and so on. Bristol and Cardiff have been adorned with them, on a larger scale. The one in Leicester is the least successfully integrated that I’ve seen – stuck on, like a pair of designer shades on a retired colonel. But I suppose these things are only annoying to people like me who travel around a lot and get bored by repetition. For local residents they represent a vast improvement on run-down city centre wastelands, and in fairness Exeter is now a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon. A youth orchestra was rehearsing Mussorgsky in the cathedral’s astonishing acoustics, and the sun even popped out briefly.


When possible I like to take a stroll around the country lanes during my lunch break. Sadly these walks have been rained off for more or less the past two years. But venturing out again on Friday there were signs – largely derived from voodoo – that some sort of summer might be around the corner. I have a firm belief that the success or otherwise of the London Olympics – and in this instance I measure ‘success’ by the degree to which they make us feel good about ourselves and our country – is at least 90% dependent on the weather. Of course London should never have bid for the Olympics because (1) London is already bigger than the Olympics so its reputation cannot be enhanced by them; and (2)  Londoners are whining ingrates who never cease complaining about everything. Manchester would have been a much better host all round. But no point worrying about that now. Summer might just be here, and when the sun is out we are less introspective, less misanthropic, more patient, more forgiving and have a much better sense of perspective. The government’s biggest enemy in recent months has been the relentless rain, which has put absolutely everybody in a foul mood. If it pisses down for the next month the Olympics will be about how rotten we are at organising things. If it is sunny then they’ll be about genial patriotism and our super Olympic pin-ups Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton. We are lowly creatures of the third rock from the sun, at the mercy of its climatic whims, and rationality is largely an illusion. Bring on the Games!



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9 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Wiggins Effect

  1. Worm
    July 23, 2012 at 10:31

    I am glad Exeter has a shopping mall, as it’s high street was always pretty rubbish, being mostly an obstacle course of dogs on strings and groups of goths.

    Regarding the Olympics, having been in Sydney for the duration of the 2000 games, I can’t see what Londoners are worried about, it was an absolutely brilliant time when nobody did any work for 3 weeks and every day involved impromptu street parties, jumping bars and pubs, and meeting friendly people from all over the world. Relax and enjoy yourself, London!

  2. alasguinns@me.com'
    Hey Skipper
    July 23, 2012 at 11:01

    I was in LA for the 1984 Olympics — the most traffic free three weeks of the 20 years I lived in the area.

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    July 23, 2012 at 11:33

    By the cringe, an all encompassing post, from 0 to 360 and back again, we commentors will have to engage our own personal trainers.

    The discovery of the world of the velocipede by the media is interesting, ever a working class sport and practised by a minority of mainly masochists, try a training run from Newcastle to Jedburgh and back, in early January.
    Back when Jacques Anquetil was king and men woz men, the only hint that the tour existed was the occasional squeak from the wireless and a two week old copy of L’equipe. Jacques, a bit of a lad whose down tube was permanently erect and head tube in a glass of pastis would party ’til dawn, don his Oppy cap and pedal up Alp ‘huez at the front of the bunch.
    Now it would seem, pedal power is good, pedal power is green, pedal power is Boris, Cannondale is king, will the Flying Scot ever return, is Brad the first mod to win the tour?

    I wonder if they know just how environmentally unfriendly are the emissions from legions of pedallers heading to the office, post 8AM.

    May the elliptical chain ring be with you.

    • Worm
      July 23, 2012 at 13:08

      of course cycling has been doomed as a sport since it emerged that Sir Alan Sugar likes nothing better than donning the lycra of a weekend

      • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
        July 23, 2012 at 19:41

        When men woz men the shorts had chamois leather inserts, do a 25 mile time trial in one hour then nip home and clean the windows whilst applying Savlon to the tackle, if Sugar is a cyclist then shouldn’t The Apprentice be The Domestique?

  4. law@mhbref.com'
    jonathan law
    July 23, 2012 at 17:47

    … the immediate Wiggins Effect will be an even greater proliferation in the number of middle-aged men on needlessly expensive bicycles, tummies bulging out of skin-tight lycra as they puff around the ring road pretending to be the King of the Mountains.

    I learned a new acronym from the radio this morning: mamils, meaning middle-aged men in lycra. Even before Wiggins-mania, the super-light super-expensive carbon-framed bike seemed to be on its way to overtaking the soft-top convertible as a cliche of male menopause. At the gym I go to, I always seem to end up showering or changing with a bunch of 40+ guys fresh from the cycle class — all wittering nakedly and expertly about brazed joints, neatly filed lugs, and hand-mitred monocoque tubing.

  5. maureen.nixon@btinternet.com'
    July 23, 2012 at 18:02

    We are currently enjoying some sunshine in Devon so I hope business takes you back to Sidmouth soon. There is always something interesting to see or listen to in Exeter cathedral and the cathedral Refectory was one of the few places to get a decent lunch before the opening of those chain restaurants – it takes a long time for such things to trickle down to the south west!

  6. danielkalder@yahoo.com'
    July 23, 2012 at 19:54

    Taking it as axiomatic that most British films are rotten, or at least very poor, and certainly not worth watching, I completely forgot about them when writing that piece. Thanks for reminding me. Mike Leigh’s fatuous “All of Nothing” for instance, crikey but that was rotten.

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