Category Archives: Blog

Staying safe on your bike

Safety is very important when riding a bike, and there are some easy safety measures you can take to protect yourself.

  • Wear a cycling helmet. Falling from a bike or being knocked off in an accident can cause head injuries, so a specially designed cycling helmet is essential. The strap should be securely fastened so you can fit two fingers between it and your neck and chin area. Helmets need replacing every 5 years or if you’ve had a crash
  • Use lights. This is something to consider especially if you commute, ride in the dark, or ride mostly on the roads. It is a good idea to have one on your bike no matter what as conditions may change during your ride. Fix a red light onto your seat post and a white light for seeing ahead onto your handle bars, check that both are charged before your ride
  • Check the tread on your tyres, as you would with a car. Worn tyres provide very little grip on the road surface especially in wet conditions and the back tyre tends to wear more quicly than the front one. Often tyres will have indicators that let you know when they need to be replaced, and instructions should be included on the packaging. If you have thrown it away, then an online search should enable you to quickly find this information, as long as you know the brand and type of tyre
  • Have your bike serviced regularly by a trained bike mechanic to ensure it is safe and well-maintained. Here is a video showing what to keep an eye on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBKeNOBwaVE
  • Wear suitable clothing. An obvious one, but weather can change, you may have to stop to mend a puncture or do a long descent into a cold wind. Check the forecast before you leave and carry a waterproof in your back pocket or rucksack if you’re in any doubt
  • Fuelling for your journey.  Take food and drink with you if riding for longer than ninety minutes as you will soon start to lose energy. You should be drinking one bike bottle per hour on longer rides, and may need to eat bars or bananas to provide energy as well. If you fail to eat or drink you will feel the effects for several days afterwards and struggle to recover, it is also dangerous to under fuel as you may find yourself unable to concentrate on the traffic and terrain ahead of you
  • Ride fairly close to (around 1 foot) the pavement and pedal smoothly looking ahead at all times. Do not ride out wide, especially without looking over your shoulder as cars often misjudge where you are on the road and can cut in close if stray from the pavement and be aware of larger traffic such as lorries and tractors
  • Do not wear entirely dark clothing, especially at night or in the evening. Car drivers will have less chance of seeing you even in daylight.  Bright colours are ideal for daytime when the light is good and reflective or fluorescent clothing is essential in murky condiions or at night time
  • Clean and check your bike regularly. Cleaning, even when your bike isn’t too dirty ensures you check there is no damage to it that will affect its performance and safety. Make sure the chain and rear sprocket are clear of mud and dirt and the braking surface is kept clean
  • Keeping your bike clean not only helps you stay but also helps to preserve it for longer. Here is a detailed video on how to clean your bike thoroughly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ak4AzlUz5Q. If you ride off-road regularly or commute through the winter, you will need to clean your bike after most rides.

For advice on choosing and buying a bike, read our blog.

Hindsight and Foresight!

Here is our latest blog from Forum Chair, Malcolm Kielty MBE on the abundance of hindsight and the scarcity of foresight!

Isn’t hindsight a wonderful attribute? 

Right now, everyone has hindsight.  Media commentators, experts, politicians and ordinary people like you and me.  Coronavirus, Brexit, Black lives Matter – we all know best!

Everyone claims to have hindsight and sounds so knowledgeable!

But what about foresight?  Wouldn’t it be brilliant if more of us had this instead!

With hindsight yes it would!

However, those who have more hindsight, rarely chance their arm at foresight, just in case they get it wrong!

They wait for others to use some foresight and if their predictions are right, they applaud the fact and save their hindsight for another day.

Which camp do you sit in?

I think it is time to have a stab at positivity instead of all this relentless negativity ……………….its the future!!

You can’t change what has gone before.  But by learning the lessons of the past, you might be able to shape a better future.

Now…………………where did I put that half full glass??

 

How to choose and buy a bike

Bike use during the coronavirus lockdown has surged, with many of us going back to two wheels.  But how do you choose the right bike for you, with so many types now on the market.

The British Government has encouraged people to use bikes for commuting and travelling instead of public transport as virus transmission is much less prevalent in open spaces. The spare time people have due to the government furlough scheme and the closing of public gyms are other factors that have encouraged people to get out on their bikes during lockdown.

Halford’s, Britain’s largest bicycle retailer, has said that sales of some bike equipment have risen by a massive 500% since the lockdown. The UK transport secretary has consequently set out a £2 billion scheme to expand cycling and walking, including infrastructure improvements. In this article we will advise on choosing a bike, staying safe and maintenance.

Note: all prices correct at time of publication – but subject to change.

Types of Bike

Commuter Bike
This is an all-round bicycle that is relatively light, easy to maintain, and performs best on tarmac and cycle paths. This bike is ideal if you are commuting to work or taking regular rides around your local area but have a limited budget.

Typically these bikes cost between £400 and £800; however they can be upgraded with better quality, more puncture resistant tyres, such as the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Smart Guard. Also disc brakes are preferable to rim brakes as they have a shorter stopping distance and perform better in wet weather.

Things to remember when buying a commuter bike are the challenges you face on your ride. Do you regularly see broken glass or rough surfaces? How hilly is your area? Are you dealing with lots of traffic? Make sure your bike has sufficient gears if you are tackling the Calderdale hills. Even though commuter bikes are often simplified for easier maintenance, they still need to be checked and serviced regularly.

Some commuter bikes we like:

  • Boardman HYB 8.8 – £750 – ideal for a hilly commute, it is light and has a range of gears
  • Specialized Sirrus 1.0 – £450 – comfortable and comes with tough tyres: a good entry level bicycle.

Folding Bike
Handy if you are limited on space, if you live in a flat or include a train journey in your commute. It is a good idea to buy one of these from a shop rather than online so you can practice folding and unfolding it as some are trickier than others. The wheel size of a folding bike is typically very small which makes them light and storable, but this means they roll more slowly on the road. If you would like a one that rolls more quickly but doesn’t need to be carried far, larger wheels are a better option.

Folding bikes have a big range of price tags, from £200 to over £2000. And as lower priced ones are often heavier and less adjustable, this is an important factor to take into account before buying. Even the lightest models of folding bikes can be cumbersome to hoist on and off a train regularly.

Some folding bikes we like:

  • Brompton M6L folding bike – from £915 – 11kg and can have several different types of handlebar.
  • B’Twin Tilt 120 folding bike – £200 – has larger wheels than a Brompton and is quite heavy, can be bought from Decathlon.
  • Raleigh Stowaway 7 folding bike – £400 – larger wheels but heavier, has mudguards fitted with a pannier rack.

E-Bike
As most of Calderdale is hilly or have a long commute, the E-bike is a good option. An E-bike is motor assisted, so some effort is still required to pedal but you can adjust how much help you receive so that you don’t arrive at your destination covered in sweat.

They take 3-6 hours to be charged, depending on the make and model, and can have a range of 50 miles, but more likely 30 miles with relaxed pedalling. They are becoming less expensive but unsurprisingly still cost more than a man-powered bicycle, typically £1,500 to £4,000. E-bikes are generally mountain bikes, commuter bikes or road bikes, however folding E-bikes are beginning to appear on the market.

Hybrid/Commuter ebikes we like: 

  • Specialized Turbo Vado 3.0 electric bike – £2,400.
  • Giant FastRoad E+ Pro 2 electric bike – £2,749.

Road ebikes we like:

  • Focus Paralane2 9.8 e-bike – £4,600.
  • Giant Road E+ 1 Pro  – £3,800.

Mountain Bike ebikes we like: 

  • Canyon Neuron:ON 7.0 – £3,899
  • Cannondale Moterra SE – £6,199.

Road Bike

Perhaps the most famous and well known type of bicycle, road bikes are best for fitness and speed; however a short road ride on quiet lanes is a perfect outing for a beginner road bike rider as the bikes travel more quickly and smoothly on most roads than the bikes mentioned earlier.

Most road bikes are now equipped with disc brakes which are more effective than rim brakes, they have dropped handlebars and can be fitted with either flat pedals or road cleats which are secure clip pedals that connect to a special shoe. Thousands of different types of road bike are available so we will try to break down the different kinds for you as simply as possible.

Most road bikes are carbon fibre or aluminium, carbon is lighter and more expensive but aluminium is sturdier. Most can be put into a low racing position for aerodynamic efficiency but can also have the bars raised for comfort. Ideally in an area like Calderdale, a road bike is best with plenty of gears and some puncture resistant tyres like Schwalbe Durano for £23 per tyre.

For beginner road riders we like:

  • Boardman SLR 8.6 Alloy – £600 (there is a women’s version of this bike too)
  • Specialized Allez E5 2020 – £680.

For experienced road riders (carbon fibre) we like: 

  • Trek Emonda ALR Disc 5 – £1650
  • Giant TCR Advanced 1 – £1900.

Mountain Bike
A brilliant option if you want to escape the traffic and head out on to the moors around Calderdale. Mountain bikes are comfortable to ride, have straight handle bars, in-built suspension for more comfort and often flat or cleated pedals (pedals which fix to a special shoe).

They are a good option for beginners, because their larger tyres absorb potholes and bumps more readily than a road bike. They can be easily ridden on tarmac roads as well as the tracks and bridleways, though this will eventually wear down the tyres.

Mountain biking has been a good choice during lockdown as the tracks found locally tend to take you away from our towns and villages. There are two main types of mountain bike: cross country and downhill. Downhill bikes as the name suggests are faster downhill and tend to be bought by more experienced riders. Cross country mountain bikes are more versatile and popular.

Cross country mountain bikes we like:

  • Trek Roscoe 8 – £1,300
  • Specialized Fuse 27.5 – £1,000.

Downhill mountain bikes we like:

  • Giant Stance I – £1,500
  • Scott Spark 970 – £1,800.

Women’s Bikes
Women tend to have shorter arms, narrower shoulders and shorter torsos than men; and therefore bikes tailored towards them can be comfier and more efficient.  Women may also need a specific saddle. A lot of bikes are unisex and most of the ones we’ve listed above either have a women’s version or can be used by either sex.

However, for road bikes in particular, where the rider stays in the same position for a long time, comfort is very important and so we recommend that women choose or test a female specific bicycle. Often unisex bikes can be fitted with a female saddle and adjusted to have a different position that suits the rider, which can be a good compromise. If you experience discomfort riding your bike, it is worth investing in a professional “bike fit” to fine tune your riding position.

Some female bike brands we like:

  • Liv – the female version of bike retailer Giant, these bikes are all tailored to women and include mountain bikes, road racing bikes, E-bikes and commuter bikes.
  • Trek – they have a very good range of women’s bikes of different kinds and women’s frames too, as well as a large collection of gender neutral bicycles.

Some female saddles we like:

  • Selle Italia Diva Gelflow Racing Saddle – £50+ – although used for racing it is also a good, light and comfortable saddle for longer rides on all types of bike.
  • Fizick Luce – £30+ – a lower priced alternative.

For tips on riding safely and looking after your bike see our blog.

Mum and daughter blog: Living the lockdown together

Mum Blog: Living the lockdown with my teenage daughter!

When I look back to Christmas, our thoughts and plans for the future, it feels like we are living in some weird dystopian novel.  Increasingly worried about the environment, I had started following Extinction Rebellion’s activities in the news and signed up for a local tree planting initiative.  Most of the time spent with my daughter was in driving practice, ferrying her to her local job at a pub or a friends’ party.  Week nights she was shuttered away in her bedroom studying.

By late January, it was clear the virus could become a pandemic.  An avid follower of national news: radio 4 usually switched on in the car and kitchen, Sunday papers bought each week.  Also my job working in a communications role for a membership association for day nurseries, meant I was focused every day on the implications for business.

Things are about to change…

The office telephone was now ringing continually as members sought advice on how to deal with their staff, children and parents travelling to or returning from Europe at half term.  It had now entered my daughter’s consciousness that the coronavirus might just pose a threat to her recently booked trip to Europe – the budget flight to Milan has already been booked and paid for. As a mother I defaulted into instant reassurance.  “I’m sure it will be all over in Italy by June!” I replied when questioned. How wrong could I be! 

My daughter started to take the coronavirus seriously when she started with a temperature.  We kept her off school for several days – just in case she had caught COVID-19.  We listened carefully for the dry cough that is a recognized symptom of the virus and provided tea, throat sweets and reassurance that this was merely a typical English winter flu virus. 

Lockdown arrives

The week running up to lockdown was chaotic.  While I juggled trying to work from home, communicating with my team by WhatsApp and staying positive, my daughter heard her upcoming school trip to Paris is cancelled and attended a final assembly at school.  Tears and hugs with friends and teachers followed – despite Government advice on social distancing, as she realized her school days are over and she will not be taking exams!   Emotions run high.  A planned 18th birthday party for a friend goes ahead and we make the difficult decision to allow her to attend – though with strict warnings about alcohol and hugging!

With my job furloughed one week after lockdown, our comfortable existence was turned upside down.  My daughter had to deal with many disappointments from the stream of cancellations. Paris, driving test, A Level exams. Meanwhile a prolonged “holiday” at home stared back at me as I logged disconsolately on to my computer on the first morning – not sure what to do with my day with no emails to check or deadlines to meet!

Time to fill…

But a vacuum has to be filled!  As if to somehow compensate furloughed workers and school children we enjoy days of relentless sunshine and spend time relaxing in the garden and taking family walks.

I am a creature of habit.  Determined not to fritter away my time, I still set my alarm clock for 7am each weekday.  By 8.30am I am at my computer: taking advantage of some of the excellent free online courses available right now and helping my self-employed husband with one of his charity clients.  Afternoons are spent gardening, reading and following Boris’s advice on exercise. 

My daughter meanwhile stays in bed until mid-morning – though I wake her at 8.30am with a mug of tea, books are read and French videos on YouTube French are watched before she emerges – blinking in the daylight. She spends a lot of time on social media and Zoom and keeps mostly to her bedroom.  When it grows hot she emerges to sunbathe like a tulip opening in the spring.  But I can’t complain.  She has applied to study English Literature at university – so reading D.H. Lawrence, Shakespeare and George Orwell is not time wasted.   She runs, cycles and does some yoga too.  I can’t begrudge her this time – though I worry about the future for her and for us all……………

My reflections on life in lockdown

So while I do not want to trivialize the impact of the coronavirus on lives, the lockdown has brought me benefits, one of them being time.  Oodles of time available for thinking and re-building relationships and getting to know myself again. 

My husband Phil has the ability to switch off from work and family issues, settle down with a book or TV programme and relax.  He is better able to live in the moment than me.  But I have been re-learning this vital skill – and in doing so, discovering the joy of relaxing in a comfortable chair, with a good book, a homemade cake and a cup of Lady Grey tea!

Spending time with my family has been unexpectedly beneficial.  We have talked more, enjoyed more mealtimes together, played cards and scrabble and watched TV programmes together – able to chat and banter without the pressure of frayed tempers, limited time and conflicting priorities.

I have also picked up some long forgotten skills.  I set myself a project to sew a fabric facemask, in case a borrowed sewing machine, in case they are made compulsory and have now produced five.  Meanwhile she has encouraged me to pick up my French language knowledge – which had laid dormant since my teenage years; watching videos and encouraging me to try some rather stilted French conversation with her.

And now after six weeks at home, I am anxious about the rhythm of my daily life returning to its pre-lockdown beat!

Daughter Blog: Living the lockdown with parents over 50!

The coronavirus first floated into my consciousness in its early stages, as it did for many. I treated it with little concern, ploughing on with my life and thinking back to similar circumstances in the past that had never affected me personally. I had more to worry about anyway: A Levels, school drama – things that have paled into insignificance now.

So to bring things up to date, the corona virus has cancelled or postponed my A levels, my social life and consequently any motivation to leave my bed. Perhaps what I find so strange about this is how young I feel. When I was 7 or 8 I would spend the whole summer holiday like this, wandering about, finding things to do. There was no end goal, I lived in the moment and this is hard to return to.

At eighteen I want to travel, meet friends and gain independence. Yet I have been shuttled back to early childhood. With no siblings to annoy, it’s just me, my parents and the cat. So how am I filling this gaping void?

Time with my parents

Mornings are mostly spent waking up, so I avoid my parents quite often as this is not when I am at my best. My Mum kindly finds a task for me to do and my parents work, so until lunch we have little interaction. Food has been our saviour for the duration of March and April.  A desire to eat it is something we all have in common, and all of this time means that more preparation goes into meals and we can chat over food, however little there is to say. Taking turns to cook meals and trying different recipes that are compatible with flour shortages and a smaller range of veg keep this entertaining and will certainly prepare me for university.

On most days I exercise with my parents, a run with my Mum or a take a bike ride with my Dad. On some days I am not in the mood or we go for a family walk.

Afternoons are leisurely, if the weather is nice we sit out and talk. The afternoon can drag though, so finding small tasks to do with my parents fills the time nicely. We use the sewing machine sporadically or join the legions of banana bread bakers, the more domestic the better. 

After dinner we will often watch television together with a cup of tea and pudding. We also spend some time on Zoom with family and friends. 

Time with myself

This is the important one for not going mad. Everyone needs time alone, and even though isolation can be a lonely experience, it can be suffocating to be in close proximity to the same people always. 

As a family we converge for food and tasks and diverge for relaxation and work. Yes, I have no work right now but schools are encouraging us to do some, to keep us from regressing into the Netflix-binging slobs the teachers presume we all must be. Most of this work is done in my room, which is a place I go to do things on my own: sleeping, schoolwork and listening to music. Mum has the office and Dad has the lounge.

I do sometimes exercise on my own, although it is reassuring to be with a parent if I am going further afield. I call my friends on Zoom regularly, this often makes me feel much better if I’ve had a frustrating day or feel low.

When I finally emerge from my room to help around the house, I listen to yet more music or podcasts. It is nice to have things to entertain me that are personal, that I have discovered and grown to love on my own. My parents listen to the radio and read the paper which is their version of this. 

The age gap between myself and my parents is typically bridged by food, television and our one hour of daily exercise. There are other things that tie us together: the strange adaptation taking place to this new regime, an empty calendar and an uncertain future. Although it’s nice to forget the future for a minute, enjoy being safe and healthy as a family and relax together in front of a detective series with no pressing need to do anything.

BLOG: Dandelions or daffodils – the choice is yours!

Forum Chair Malcolm Kielty compares the challenge of beating the coronavirus with a gardener’s travails with weeding out the humble dandelion.

Some folk just don’t get it do they?  Keep consistent with social isolation and we can beat this pandemic, and keep thousands of people alive!

Just like the gardener’s travails with the humble dandelion?

It’s the end of April and dandelions are bursting out all over the place: bright yellow, hard to ignore and arguably as a classified  ‘weed’ they are just a flower in the wrong place?  But they compete for space against our spring flowers: bluebells, forget-me-not and the beloved daffodil.

Attractive at first, but In a week or so the dandelion turns into the demon which is a ball of seeds wafting in the wind.  Even a light breeze or a puff of air from one of us blowing clocks for some doting grandchild allows millions of seeds to spread.  Millions more dandelions will be with us next spring, and so on ……….

So what can we do?  Deadhead them NOW, ensure our spring flowers can flourish for us all to enjoy again next year and stop this dande-pandemic!

And stop the coronavirus too.  JUST STAY IN DOORS,SAVE LIVES and stop this virus spreading out of control.

Now, where is my half full beer glass??

BLOG: Surviving the enforced lockdown!

Read our latest blog from Forum trustee Michael Riley on how he is dealing with the enforced lockdown!

13 April 2020

So as one of a group of people which it appears will be locked down for 12 weeks, and this is only week three – here is what have I been doing with myself to pass the time.

Well at the start of lockdown I spent two weeks trying to add myself to someone’ s delivery for groceries!   We have two daughters and of course they were keen to try and get everything we are short of, but they have families of their own and it was all getting a little too complicated.

So I tried all the usual suspects myself: Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Aldi but none of them was really geared up in the early part of the lockdown to deliver to me at home. Eventually we signed up with Sainsbury’s and now have a grocery delivery coming on Friday.  So one problem sorted  (we hope)!

Then I decided I would paint those bits of our house which had started showing their age. Unfortunately when I inspected our internal white paint, most of it seemed to have “yellowed” somewhat with the passage of time!

I picked up my paintbrush, and having some paint in stock, I have now painted all our internal doors (both sides), the stairway balustrade and all of our window sills a brilliant white.  To be honest I am rather pleased with the results and the house looks quite marvellous inside – compared to before.

So now for the outside in week two.  A rather harder task as its mostly high up and for a 75 year old just a bit more dangerous!  I have though now painted all the external wood work I can reach from ground level!

This brings me to this week (week three of the lockdown). What else could I do?   I started by listing out all my rugby league programmes, then I repaired all the rotting wood outside and now I have tidied our garden.   So what next!!!

Time for me now . . . . I’m going to learn my guitar!!!   Is there really another ten weeks still to go?

BLOG: Why do we say such peculiar things?

Why do we say and do such peculiar things?

At a time of national crisis, when every news headline is about the coronavirus, here are some light-hearted reflections, from a reader, on the strange things we say and do.  We hope some of them make you smile.  

Share them with friends and family and we’d love you to send us your own “why’s” as well to: info@calderdaleforum50plus.com

Why do supermarkets make sick and infirm walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions whilst the healthy folk can buy cigarettes at the front?

Why do people order double cheeseburger, large fries and a DIET COKE!

Why do banks leave their vault doors open but chain their pens to the counter?

Why do we leave cars worth thousand of pounds in the driveway and fill the garage full of junk?

Ever wondered Why the sun bleaches your hair but darkens the skin?

Why don’t you ever see “Psychic wind lottery“?

Why is it that Doctors and Lawyers call it a “Practice”?

Why Lemon juice is made with ‘artificial flavourings’, whilst washing up liquid is made 2with fresh Lemons”?

Why is the time of the day with slowest movement of traffic called ‘ rush hour’?

Why is a company that invests money called a ‘ Broker’?

Why isn’t there a ‘ mouse ‘flavoured cat food’?

Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for a lethal injection?

Why don’t sheep shrink when they get really soaked through?

Why don’t they make all of a plane from the same material as the indestructible black box?

Why are apartments called as they are when they are all stuck together?

Why if flying is so safe are airports called TERMINAL?

Why aren’t ‘TOUCH JUDGES’ prosecuted for sexual harassment ?

 

INFO: 25 FREE things to keep you entertained while in self-isolation

By now, many of us will have been self-isolating at home for weeks, shielding ourselves from the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. Right now, more than ever, we need things to keep us busy and entertained at home.

Happily, through the power of technology, many companies, organisations and charities have responded quickly, opening up their services to everyone from the comfort of their own home. Here are 25 things that will keep you smiling – all for FREE. This list was compiled by Disability Horizons – pop over to their website for more great content and to sign up to their excellent newsletters.

Virtual tours from your sofa

Many places of interest, from museums to zoos, are opening their doors to everyone to enjoy from the comfort of their own home.

Virtual tours are not only a great way to fill a couple of hours, but also make a wide range of locations that would normally be off-limits to disabled people accessible. It’s one thing that we really hope stays in place after this pandemic.

1. Houses and gardens

The National Trust has opened up some of its properties and gardens for virtual tours, including Hidcote houseSissinghurst CastleA la Ronde house and Anglesey Abbey.

You can also get a 360° view of a number of rooms in Blenihum Palace – the Red Drawing Room, and the FirstSecond and Third State Rooms.

Waddesdon Manor and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton are also offering a virtual experience.

To immerse yourself in beautiful gardens, head to YouTube to take a look at the attractions at Kew Gardens and see RHS Wisley from the air.

2. Zoos

Chester Zoo is streaming regular live virtual tours on its Facebook page and YouTube channel, and has lots of downloadable learning resources for kids.

Edinborough Zoo has live webcams on its panda, penguins, koala and tiger so that you can take a sneak peek into the lives these of cute animals.

Panda lying on planks of wood

3. Museums

The British Museum not only has virtual tours of its main exhibitions, but it also has audio tours and online resources, and allows you to look up-close at specific collections and listen to its behind-the-scenes podcast.

The Natural History Museum has also opened its doors virtually, and you can view many of the collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum online.

4. Art galleries

The National Gallery has a Google 360° tour of many of its room from 2016, plus there are plenty of behind-the-scenes videos on the National Gallery YouTube channel.

You can also search the art collections at the National Gallery to study many of its paintings in detail, as you would in real life. You can do the same on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Tate Britain has also utilised Google to offer tours online as well as having collections readily available look through.

5. Royal residences

Buckingham PalaceWindsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse all have virtual tours of their most iconic rooms, including the Throne room at Buckingham Palace and State Banquet at Windsor castle.

6. Disneyland

If you have children – or are a big kid at heart – you’ll be thrilled to discover that you can glimpse into Disneyland with its new 360° tours.

7. Natural wonders

Head to the Lake District via live webcams on Lake Windermere, Ullswater, Keswick and more.

You can even take a look at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and Stonehenge in Salisbury.

Giant's Causeway

Watch TV shows and films

A few different TV channels and subscription services are offering free and additional TV shows to help us through self-isolation.

8. Shows revisited on the BBC

The BBC has added lots of old TV shows to its iPlayer to enable you to binge-watch box sets. Re-watch comedies including Miranda, Gavin and Stacey and French and Saunders, and dramas, such as Spooks, Luther, and Merlin.

There is also a selection of new BBC shows already recorded and airing soon.

Or course there are all the other usual Freeview channels, such as Dave, Really, Drama, Quest and CBeebies, and movie-specific ones including Film4, Paramount Movies and Sony Movies. The only downside is that they have adverts.

9. Amazon Prime for kids

If you have kids you can enjoy a range of films and TV shows for children absolutely free on Amazon. You don’t have to be an Amazon Prime member, but you do need to have an account with Amazon.

If you’re already subscribed to Virgin Media or Sky, you can also get some free extras.

10. Free online streaming services

There are also a few websites and apps that have a bank of free TV shows and films – PopcronflixFilmrise (in-app only) and Kanopy, although, for this last service, you will need to be part of a participating library.

Be aware, there is currently a Netflix scam claiming to offer free subscriptions, so be wary if you receive any unsolicited communication about this. You can find out more about how to spot a scam on the Netflix website.

Sing to lift your spirits

Since Covid-19 came to the UK, established choirs have been moving online to enable their singers to continue to meet, albeit virtually. Not only that, but new choirs are also springing up in all shapes and sizes.

Here are a couple of options if you’d like to lift your spirits through the power of singing.

11. Great British Home Chorus with Gareth Malone

Performing every weekday at 5.30, Gareth leads a virtual choir from his at-home music studio.

You can sign up to the choir on Gareth Malone’s website, and watch/join in the Great British Home Chorus sessions on YouTube.

Here is the first session to give you a flavour of what is involved.

12. Rock Choir online

The established Rock Choir, which has groups spread across the UK and normally charges for people to take part, is doing free sing-along sessions every day at 3 pm. Each virtual gathering is lead by a different group from across the country.

Visit the Rock Choir website to find out more about the organisation and this initiative, and join Rock Choir on Facebook to get involved.

Read and listen to 100s of books

While schools, libraries and book stores are closed, a number of online book services are offering ebooks for free during the outbreak.

13. eBooks for adults

You can browse hundreds of ebooks on Goodreads, which also allows you to connect with others and set reading challenges. All you need to do to get access is sign up, which you can do via Facebook to Amazon.

Until 30th April, Amazon is offering a two-month free trial of its KindleUnlimited service, allowing you to download a whole host of ebooks, magazines and audiobooks. And you don’t have to have a kindle.

You can also get a free trial of Amazon’s Audible service, where it has audiobooks, which gives you 30 days of use.

Like with the film and TV streaming service Kanopy, on Hoopla you can read a range of library of books for free if you are joined with a participating library. It has movies to watch as well.

You can also use Open Library and Many Books to find free books that can be read online or can be printed out.

14. eBooks for kids

Tons of books for kids and teenagers on Audible are now free, and online library Oxford Owl has made more books available too.

You can also use the Books Trust to find books and games for younger kids.

Listen to podcasts and radio shows

Like audiobooks, listening to a podcast or radio show is a great way to pass the time or add background ambience while completing tasks. And there are lots available for free.

15. BBC radio and podcasts

Three images from BBC podcasts

All BBC radio channels – of which there are more than 10 – are free to listen to and don’t have adverts. It also has a wide selection of podcasts, from ones that will make you laugh to those that will get you thinking.

Of course, there are lots of other radio stations, including MagicKissHeart and Capital, but these have adverts. Heart and Capital also have podcasts.

16. Free podcast sites

PodbeanTuneIn and Libsyn have hundreds of podcasts available in lots of different categories. The latter also has a podcast series from our Co-founder Martyn Sibley.

Many of the podcasts on all three sites are free to listen to, although some have adverts or messages from sponsors. There are also premium versions, which give unlock other podcasts and remove ads.

You can also listen to lots of podcasts for free on Spotify, but you will need to sign up. It doesn’t cost anything to join, but the paid-for version will give you access more.

17. Amazon Audible free trial

Like with audiobooks on Amazon’s Audible, you can try the Amazon Original podcasts, for free when you take out a 30-day free trial.

Watch at-home theatre

While we might not be able to physically go to the theatre at the moment, you can still enjoy breathtaking shows from home, some of which would never have been accessible to you before.

18. National Theatre weekly screenings

Each Thursday at 7 pm, the National Theatre will be screening plays recently seen at the theatre.

If you’re not free on that day or at that time, you can watch them afterwards on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel. Just be aware that they will only be available for a limited time.

19. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals

If musicals are more your thing, then you’ll be thrilled to learn that Andrew Lloyd Webber is showing some of his iconic musicals online.

Head to The Show Must On YouTube channel to watch them every Friday evening at 7 pm, and catch up afterwards if you miss it, again for a limited time.

Still images from Andrew Loyd Webber's musicals

20. Royal Opera House shows

The Royal Opera House will be posting four of its shows online – Peter and the Wolf, Acis and Galatea, Così fan tutte, and The Metamorphosis.

They will be shown on a Friday evening, but again will be available to watch afterwards on The Royal Opera House YouTube channel for a short period.

Play games and quizzes

From Candy Crush and Solitaire on your phone to online quizzes and computer games that can be played with friends, there’s lots to keep you occupied.

21. Apps

There is a whole host of free apps available with games and quizzes to help you while away the time. Our article on top fun and activity apps is a good place to start.

If you’re a fan of the TV show Wheel of Fortune, you can play a free version on your iPhone or Android phone.

And if you like word games, try the Words with Friends and Scattergories app on both iPhone and Android phone.

The Apple store and Google Play store will have lots of other free suggestions too.

22. Video and computer games

Some websites offer a selection of free video games, including SteamEpic Games and Itch.io, with the last having made much more available at this testing time.

23. Playing with others

While we’re in lockdown, it’s great to be able to have fun with others, even when you’re not in the same house.

Website Playingcards.io enables you to invite friends and family to play card games and chequers with you. You can also play Uno online with others once you download it from the Let’s Play Uno website.

Games.co.uk has tons of free games, many of which can be played with someone else, but it does have adverts.

HouseParty, which you can get on your phone, tablet, or computer, allows you to have a virtual party with as many as eight guests.

Use websites such as Free Pub Quiz and Fun Quizzes if you want to create your own quiz night.

Lastly, the website Kahoot is designed for students and teachers to create educational quizzes and games, but can be used for almost anything, so it worth exploring.

Take part in fun challenges

Doing the rounds on social media is a raft of fun online challenges – and anyone can join in.

24. Loo Roll Challenge

The #LooRollChallenge involves people doing something creative with, you guessed it, a loo roll. Many have created videos showing a loo roll being thrown seamlessly from one person to another, making it look like it has travelled miles.

Others have been painting works of art on the cardboard tubes in the middle, while some have chosen to play keep it up. Paralympian Will Bayley did just that recently – very successfully.

25. Teddy Bear Hunt

Inspired by the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, this challenge sees stuffed bears being placed in windows across the UK, giving children something to look out for and distract them from the current situation.

By Disability Horizons

ADVICE: Mental Heath – Comprehensive Advice

Guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing during the crisis

Public Health England has published a really useful guide for the public on looking after their mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak.

What you need to know

The coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak is going to have an impact on everyone’s daily lives, as the government and the NHS take necessary steps to manage the outbreak, reduce transmission and treat those who need medical attention.

It may be difficult, but by following guidance on social distancing, or staying at home, you are helping to protect yourself, your family, the NHS and your community.

During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.

Background

This guide provides advice on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

For wider guidance on how to protect yourself and others, and actions to take if you think you may have contracted the virus please see the guidance on this page.

This guidance will be updated in line with the changing situation.

What can help your mental health and wellbeing

Consider how to connect with others: Maintaining relationships with people you trust is important for your mental wellbeing. Think about how you can stay in touch with friends and family via telephone, video calls or social media instead of meeting in person – whether it’s people you normally see often or connecting with old friends.

Help and support others: Think about how you could help those around you – it could make a big difference to them and can make you feel better too. Could you message a friend or family member nearby? Are there community groups that you could join to support others locally? Remember it’s important to do this in line with guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) to keep yourself and everyone safe. And try to be accepting of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviours.

Talk about your worries: It is quite common to feel worried, scared or helpless about the current situation. Remember that this is a difficult time for everyone and sharing how you are feeling and the things you are doing to cope with family and friends can help them too. If you don’t feel able to do that, there are people you can speak to via NHS recommended helplines or you could find support groups online to connect with.

Look after your physical wellbeing: Your physical health has a big impact on how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. At times like these, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, drink enough water, exercise inside where possible and outside once a day, and try to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs.

If you are able to go outside, consider walking or gardening (keeping the recommended 2 metres from others as outlined in the social distancing guidance). If you are staying at home, you can find free easy 10 minute work outs from Public Health England or other exercise videos to try at home on the NHS Fitness Studio. Sport England also has good tips for keeping active at home.

Look after your sleep: Feeling anxious or worried can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how you feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.

Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep good sleep hygiene practices – like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. The Every Mind Matters sleep page provides practical advice on how to improve your sleep.

Try to manage difficult feelings: Many people find the news about coronavirus (COVID-19) concerning. However, some people may experience such intense anxiety that it becomes a problem. Try to focus on the things you can control, including where you get information from and actions to make yourself feel better prepared.

It is okay to acknowledge some things that are outside of your control right now but constant repetitive thoughts about the situation which lead you to feel anxious or overwhelmed are not helpful. The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

Manage your media and information intake: 24-hour news and constant social media updates can make you more worried. If it is affecting you, try to limit the time you spend watching, reading, or listening to media coverage of the outbreak. It may help to only check the news at set times or limiting to a couple of checks a day.

Get the facts: Gather high-quality information that will help you to accurately determine your own or other people’s risk of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) so that you can take reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can trust such as GOV.UK, or the NHS website, and fact check information that you get from newsfeeds, social media or from other people.

Think about how possibly inaccurate information could affect others too. Try not to share information without fact-checking against credible sources.

Think about your new daily routine: Life is changing for us all for a while. Whether you are staying at home or social distancing, you are likely to see some disruption to your normal routine.

Think about how you can adapt and create positive new routines – try to engage in useful activities (such as cleaning, cooking or exercise) or meaningful activities (such as reading or calling a friend). You might find it helpful to write a plan for your day or your week.

Do things you enjoy: When you are anxious, lonely or low you may do things that you usually enjoy less often, or not at all. Focussing on your favourite hobby, learning something new or simply taking time to relax indoors should give you some relief from anxious thoughts and feelings and can boost your mood.

If you can’t do the things you normally enjoy because you are staying at home, try to think about how you could adapt them, or try something new. There are lots of free tutorials and courses online and people are coming up with innovative online solutions like online pub quizzes and streamed live music concerts.

Set goals: Setting goals and achieving them gives a sense of control and purpose – think about things you want or need to do that you can still do at home. It could be watching a film, reading a book or learning something online.

Keep your mind active: Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles, sudokus, jigsaws or drawing and painting. Find something that works for you.

Take time to relax and focus on the present: This can help with difficult emotions, worries about the future, and can improve wellbeing. Relaxation techniques can also help some people to deal with feelings of anxiety. For useful resources see Every Mind Matters and NHS’ mindfulness page.

If you can, once a day get outside, or bring nature in: Spending time in green spaces can benefit both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you can’t get outside much you can try to still get these positive effects by spending time with the windows open to let in fresh air, arranging space to sit and see a nice view (if possible) and get some natural sunlight, or get out into the garden if you can.

Remember that social distancing guidelines enable you to go outside to exercise once a day as long as you keep 2 metres apart from others who are not members of your household group.

Staying at home

Recent guidance is clear about the need for people to stay at home. If you are feeling anxious it might help to think about potential challenges and make a plan for them.

Practical issues

Supplies: Think about how you can get any supplies you need – either from a neighbour, family friends or a delivery service so you don’t worry about running out. Try to pick healthy food, especially as you might not get as much exercise as normal.

Financial concerns: You may be worried about work and money if you have to stay home – these issues can have a big impact on your mental health. For guidance on what your rights are at work, what benefits you are entitled and what further support is available please see our guidance for employees or advice from citizens advice or the National Debt line.

If you care for other people: You may be worried about how to ensure care for those who rely on you – either your dependants at home or others that you regularly visit. Let your local authority know if you provide care, or support someone you don’t live with. Further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK.

If you are being treated or taking medication for existing conditions

Continue accessing treatment and support where possible: Let relevant services know that you are staying at home, and work out how to continue receiving support during this time:

  • ask about having appointments by phone, text or online. For example, this could be with your counsellor, therapist or support worker, nurse, care worker or befriender
  • if you use care services that will be affected by staying at home, you should let your local authority and care provider know so alternative arrangements can be put in place
  • make it clear if any support is still needed. Tell them that alternative arrangements are required if any of the usual support can’t continue. This may include things like carers visiting, day centre sessions, or friends and family coming over to help

Keep taking your medication: You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online using an app or website if your doctor’s surgery offers this.

  • ask your pharmacy about getting your medication delivered or think about who you could ask to collect it for you. The NHS website has more information about getting prescriptions for someone else and checking if you have to pay for prescriptions
  • continue to order your repeat prescriptions in your usual timeframe. There is no need to order for a longer duration or larger quantities
  • your GP practice (or clinical team) may move your prescriptions to repeat dispensing arrangements so you only have to contact your pharmacy to get a repeat of your medicine rather than your practice
  • be careful about buying medication online. You should only buy from registered pharmacies. You can check if a pharmacy is registered on the General Pharmaceutical Council website
  • you can contact NHS 111 in England if you’re worried about accessing medication

Where to get further support

Managing physical symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety

It is quite common to experience short-lived physical symptoms when your mood is low or anxious, for example:

  • faster, irregular or more noticeable heartbeat
  • feeling lightheaded and dizzy
  • headaches
  • chest pains or loss of appetite

It can be difficult to know what is causing these symptoms, but often people who experience them due to stress, anxiety or low mood find that they get worse when they focus on them. See advice from the NHS on managing the physical symptoms.

If you are concerned about your physical symptoms, then do contact NHS 111 online.

For advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) and any symptoms see the NHS website.

If you are experiencing stress, feelings of anxiety or low mood, you can use the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and practical tools Every Mind Matters also provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health. If you are still struggling after several weeks and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111.

In a medical emergency call 999. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

Additional advice for groups with specific mental health needs

Existing mental health problems

If you already have a mental health problem, then you may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak particularly challenging. The advice above should help, but here are a few extra things that you may want to think about. This advice is part of comprehensive guidance provided by Mind.

Managing difficult feelings or behaviours to do with hygiene, washing or fears of infection

Some mental health problems can cause difficult feelings or behaviours to do with washing or hygiene. If you experience this, you might find it hard to hear advice about washing your hands.

It is important to follow government advice on helping to avoid the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), but if you find you are going beyond the recommendations, if this is making you feel stressed or anxious, or if you are having intrusive thoughts here are some things you could try:

  • don’t keep re-reading the same advice if this is unhelpful for you
  • let other people know you’re struggling, for example you could ask them not to discuss the news with you
  • breathing exercises can help you cope and feel more in control. You can find a simple breathing exercise on the NHS website and Mind’s pages on relaxation have some relaxation tips and exercises you can try
  • set limits, like washing your hands for the recommended 20 seconds
  • plan something to do after washing your hands, which could help distract you and change your focus
  • it could also help to read some of Mind’s tips in their information on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

Speaking to your mental health team

If you are already receiving mental health care, contact your mental health team to discuss how care will continue, and to update safety/care plans.

Managing panic and anxiety

If you have panic attacks or flashbacks, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home that you’ll go to.

You can also find ways to comfort yourself if you’re feeling anxious. For example, Mind has games and puzzles you can use to distract yourself, and breathing exercises which may help.

Managing feelings of being trapped or claustrophobia

You are probably spending more time than usual at home so try to get outside if you can, once a day. You could also open the windows to let in fresh air, find a place to sit with a view outside, or sit on your doorstep or in your garden if you have one. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible). This can help to give you a sense of space.

If you are reducing your drinking significantly

If you are reducing your drinking, remember it can be dangerous to stop too quickly without proper support. If you have physical withdrawal symptoms (like shaking, sweating or feeling anxious until you have your first drink of the day) you should seek medical advice. For further advice available in your area (including remote services) see NHS advice.

People with a learning disability

You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful. You may be worried about changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. You may also be worried about your family or those close to you.

Public Health England has easy read guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19) and how it may affect you. There is also other information available about coronavirus (COVID-19) from Mencap and how to manage difficult feelings you are having.

There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

  • as you are asked to now stay at home you should keep in touch with people you trust (like friends, family and employer) over the phone or internet – follow the advice from the stay at home and social distancing guidance
  • there may also be self-advocacy groups in your area offering more support online or by phone – you can ask your families or carers for help to search for these groups
  • it is also important to get information about coronavirus (COVID-19) only from places you can trust, such as the NHS website

While it is important to be aware of coronavirus (COVID-19), it is important not to forget about any other health conditions you might have. Make sure you take any medication you have been prescribed, keep any hospital appointments you have (unless you have been told otherwise by the hospital) and tell people if you can’t attend appointments.

Autistic people

You may be finding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak stressful and be worried about getting the virus or changes that might happen because of it, including having to stay at home. There are ways you can take care of yourself and prevent spreading the virus:

Understand what is happening

Keep up to date with information about Coronavirus (COVID-19) from sources you can trust, such as the NHS website.

Help to stop the virus from spreading

There are 4 easy steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting coronavirus or spreading it to others:

  • wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • use a tissue for coughs and sneezes and bin it
  • avoid touching your face, including your mouth and eyes
  • get up to date information about staying at home or what to do if you feel unwell on the NHS 111 website. If you are unsure about your symptoms speak to someone you trust about them, like a support worker.

Plan to keep mentally well

Do the things you would usually do to keep well, like eating food you enjoy and taking exercise, once a day outside if you can. If you have support from others, plan with them how you can remain well and relaxed. There are also other things you can do to help to manage your emotions if you feel you are losing control, such as:

  • keeping a diary
  • using apps like Brain in Hand
  • learning relaxation techniques
  • creating a plan with your carer for when you feeling anxiety

You know what strategies have helped in the past, so use them again now. The National Autistic Society guidance on managing anxiety might also be helpful.

Get help if you are struggling

Hearing about coronavirus (COVID-19), and the changes it causes in your daily life, might make you feel like you don’t have control, or make you worried or scared about your health. These feelings are common. Try to speak to someone you trust such as a friend, family member or supporter.

If you do become unwell and need medical treatment, share your hospital passport or autism diagnosis so staff know the best way to support you.

If you are still feeling worried and want more help. You can call the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104.

Older people

Government guidance is that older people are at increased risk of severe illness and need to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures and staying at home. Given this, it is natural for older people, particularly those with pre-existing medical conditions, to feel concerned or affected by changes you have to make to your daily life. The following suggestions may help with any difficult feelings and look after your mental health:

Stay connected

Draw on support you might have through your friends, family and other networks. Try to stay in touch with those around you, this might be over the phone, by post, or online. If you have been advised to stay at home, let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine.

Get practical help

If you need help, for example with shopping or running errands, ask for it and let those around you know what they can do. If you need help but you’re not sure who to contact, Age UK runs an advice line (0800 678 1602 – lines are open every day 8am-7pm) that can put you in touch with local services.

People living with dementia

You may feel concerned about coronavirus how it could affect you. Alzheimer’s Society have published information on coronavirus for people affected by dementia.

If you’d like to connect and talk with other people affected by dementia, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society online community Talking Point.

A range of information on information on dementia is also available from Alzheimer’s Research UK

If you are still feeling worried and want more help you can call the Alzheimer’s Society Helpline on 0300 222 11 22

You can also speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Helpline, on 0800 888 6687.

Dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency

You may find that the added stress of the current situation could have a big impact on your mental health. In some cases, you may feel that you are having a mental health crisis as you no longer feel able to cope or be in control of your situation.

You may: feel great emotional distress or anxiety, feel that you cannot cope with day-to-day life or work, think about self-harm or even suicide, or experience or hear voices (hallucinations).

If this sort of situation happens, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action:

  • If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it.
  • If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.
  • Mind also provides information about how to plan for a crisis.
  • Samaritans has a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.
  • Find local crisis support services near you that can support you.
  • You can contact NHS 111 if you need urgent care but it’s not life threatening.
  • In in a medical emergency call 999 if you are seriously ill or injured and your life is at risk. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical health emergency.

See further advice from the NHS on dealing with a mental health crisis.

Letters to the Editor – Riding on Electric Avenue

Phil has noticed a quiet revolution that’s starting to get a hold in Calderdale!

Just a few quick thoughts on a quiet revolution that has been happening under our noses in the last couple of years.

Cycling has always been a marginal activity in Calderdale. The hilly terrain and our weather make it a pastime for the hardy and the fit.

Commuting by bike is no less challenging, again due to the hilly terrain and a road infrastructure built for cars and lorries and not for vulnerable road users.

Well, our terrain won’t change and the weather looks like becoming even less friendly at times. But there is one significant change that is making cycling a lot more accessible. The advent of the e-bike has finally tilted the odds a little more in favour of the two-wheeled warrior.

E-bikes are stunning pieces of kit. They only provide help when you are pedalling, so there’s no throttle to manage, only a surge of reassuring power when you push on the pedals. This power is more than enough to take the sting out of hills, making them no more hard work than gently riding on the flat.

So, e-bikes are ideal for the less physically fit people who still want to enjoy the pleasure of cycling. Older cyclists are turning to them in droves, so they can keep cycling with their younger friends. And, in small but significant numbers, commuters are turning to them as a practical way of getting to work.

Some of the classic cycle commuter problems are removed, not least the issue of turning up to work sweaty and unkempt from the effort of riding a hilly route. The e-bike makes such a difference to the effort levels required that you no longer need a shower when you arrive at your workplace.

And, outside work, the e-bike is a great leisure tool, with a battery range well beyond that of all but the most enthusiastic rider.

So, the tide may just be turning a little – the roads remain a challenge as does the weather, but the e-bike is winning back users who are prepared to try something new. Why not give one a try – most cycle shops now stock them and are usually happy to let you have a test ride. You can also hire them at some cycle venues.

Letters to the Editor: Mike Tunes Up For Old Age

Mike has found a new pastime and he’s enjoying it!

As we get older and then retire it becomes a problem as to what we might fill our spare time with?

I had been involved as a volunteer at our local rugby club but as I got even older and my joints even stiffer, I thought that perhaps I needed to be looking for new plans/ideas of ways I might spend my spare time.

For many years I had gone around singing to myself much to the irritation of family and friends. “You really cannot sing Mike” I had heard from them all and to be honest singing to oneself out loud might lead anyone to that conclusion. But I did enjoy “making music” and even singing carols every Christmas along with the rest of the congregation, but never too loudly! (It’s surprising at times when we all need to sing in public, say to join in the songs at a church or even a funeral, to see just how little noise a great number of people seem able to make!).

Anyway a couple of years ago I was in just such a situation, singing along to the school song Jerusalem, after my grand daughter’s prize giving, when a reasonably close relative said to me “Mike I didn’t know you could sing” ( I still don’t think I can really) but she went on to ask“Why don’t you join a choir?

And so a couple of years ago I went along to see if I could join up to sing.

I chose the Third Age Choir which practices every Monday am for an hour at St Judes. The first practice was a little worrying.  What would they think? Could I really sing a little? Might I have to do an audition? I certainly couldn’t read music nor did I fancy an audition!!!

Worries were soon put aside with no audition needed, just a quick hello, here’s your music, grab a chair

But that first hour of practice simply flew by. We had no sooner started than it was over. After that first practice I couldn’t wait until the next week to have another go. It was really fun. I didn’t think they could really hear me singing bass at the back. But I did enjoy it.

Since then we have sung at around half a dozen public events and I can even now read a little music. But more importantly I love singing out loud even though I am just one of 3 dozen voices. I am now confident enough to sing out loud at family events and my family now refrain from suggesting that I cannot sing.

Last Christmas a family member who has Parkinson’s said she too loved to sing but realised that perhaps she couldn’t. I persuaded her to go along and join the Parkinson’s choir locally and when we met over Christmas this year she said that she too really loved the practice and public performances. She said that she felt really good after each practice. And, that, like me, she was astounded, singing alongside other sufferers from Parkinsons, how quickly their hour was up and that it made her feel so much better

It was quite a while later in my case when we were practising carols for this Christmas when I plucked up courage to ask our conductor a question about the carol we were to practice. She announced it as “the Virgin Mary had a Baby boy” but on the music it was headed “Da Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy” so I asked her which we should sing.

Her response “Sing whatever you like Mike no one will hear you back there!!” So obviously I still have a way to go yet!!!!

Our signature Tune is “You’re not too old” and perhaps you too may find the same enjoyment in singing It really is easy to find a choir to sing in and you’ll make some good friends too.

Letters to the Editor – Malc’s New Tri-focal Glasses

Malcolm’s got a new pair of glasses and he’s not sure he likes what he’s seeing!

So now it’s official! I’ve got the certificate from Specsavers to prove it and the bifocals to show I that I’ve been driving impaired, and not recognising folk on the street until they are almost in my lap!!

Didn’t someone once sing “I can see clearly now the rain has gone”?  Well, we won’t mention the rain, but there is a new clarity to things post the visit to the optician’s! However, now I can see better, it’s just reinforcing a few things I’d been thinking already:

“Did you see that idiot drive through those traffic light on RED!! Again!“ Yes I did, it’s an epidemic of bad driving!

Then there’s the question of “which clown is parked half on the pavement? As a wheelchair user, I can’t get by and neither can the person with visual impairment ,or those people pushing a pram, who are now having to go into the road to get by!”

“And there’s the cyclist on the pavement, at such a pace too!!”

“And there’s the driver still sat at the wheel in a disabled parking bay. Yes he has is blue badge, but if he’s waiting for someone coming back with shopping, please find another space and don’t disadvantage a disable driver looking in vain for a space!”

So, there you have it. My new specs have the “Wow factor” – they make things so clear, not just visually, but in terms of social commentary too! does that make them trifocal (long range vision, close range vision, plus improved social awareness as well)?

Or am I just over-analysing things?

Now where’s my beer? Hmmmm slightly less than ‘half full’……………..best order another half, by the look of it!