Third Quarantine done and dusted!

Phew! finally glad that THAT’S over. Once again, locked in because of some dumb anti-vaxxer. Please spare me your grumbling!

This is a point where the greater good of the many outweigh those of the dumb.

Anyway, after twelve days, I was raring to go, and since just before lock-up I bought a new bike (what’s new?) I thought it would be a great idea to wake up early and sample its delights.

May be an image of Chris Grillo and beard
Back at the garage, wasted by the heat!

As usually happens on a Saturday, one just lingers a little bit more in bed and lets his thoughts wander freely before getting up!

And yes, I overslept. My six am bike ride started at nine, when really, it was already too hot.

I wasn’t about to lose the opportunity though, so I shouldered my new Fuji, went down the stairs and rode off. Sadly it did not take me too long to pull up. The gear ratios on this machine are simply too steep.

My gorgeous single-gear Fuji Declaration!

So I returned to the garage, and swapped the rear Vera Corsa wheel (single speed 17T sprocket), to an old, old Raleigh Europa 10 speed. I just hooked the chain to the next highest cog on the wheel, a 24, and it was just perfect.

Yeah yeah, I remembered to fill the correct water bottle, charge my phone and slip a few euros into my pocket.

Took the road down to Santa Lucia, then offroad to Gudja, where I then returned via the newly dug up new road (this country is massively dumb!) up the new Santa Lucia bypass, and then back home. Not too much, I doubt I did 10kilometres, but seeing that it is a new bike, coming back from twelve days of incativity, and where I was last year, this is nothing short of a miracle.

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Short ride today. Just too hot!

HEAT UP!

It’s starting to heat up again, and after a couple of weeks of lower temperatures, it seems that the mercury will be rising once again.

One of the problems we have here with regards to Remote Working is simply that you just cannot work in the heat, so you reach for that AC Remote. Totally aware that you are paying for it out of your own pocket!

August of course, it’s bound to be hot…

Still sucks on so many levels. Take that vaccine will you? Perhaps I won’t be locked up again.

Three Swiss riders on the Olympic MTB podium!

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women’s mountain bike race saw a historic 1, 2, 3 for the Swiss team, with Jolanda Neff claiming her country’s first women’s Olympic mountain bike gold medal and leading the way for a historic podium clean sweep.

In 28 degrees heat with high humidity, the race started with 38 riders on time at 15:00 local time at Izu Mountain Bike Park, 150km south-east of Tokyo. The course had been drenched in rain earlier in the day, bringing new challenges for traction, and a different character to that on which the men raced on the previous day. Due to the terrain the race was shortened by one lap.

On the 1.3km start loop there were good getaways for many of the fancied competitors including Sina Frei, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (FRA), Jolanda Neff, Laura Stigger (AUT), Loana Lecomte (FRA) and Linda Indergand. 

Rebecca McConnell (AUS) and Kate Courtney (USA) were amongst those with slower starts and were hampered by the bottlenecks at the two-lane Amagi Pass, before the American pushed towards the top 10 at the start of the first full lap and the Australian slipped back. Great Britain’s Evie Richards got off well, vying with Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary, the youngest rider in the race aged 19, who blasted forward from her back-row start and was one of many riders taking an early small slip as they got to grips with what the surface offered.

Big names battle early

Neff and Ferrand-Prévot pushed ahead on the first of five 3.85km laps before the French UCI World Champion slipped into the ropes while chasing for the short line up a rock garden and dropped back as she remounted.

The 2017 UCI World Champion Neff broke away solo and it was Richards – perhaps inspired by fellow British Tom Pidcock’s ride to victory the previous day – who emerged to initially lead the chase.

By the end of lap 1, Neff – who recovered from breaking her hand at the Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain Bike World Cup at Leogang in June – led by 19 seconds from the 24-year-old Briton with Lecomte and Frei together at 23’ and Indergand making it three Swiss riders in the top five as they sped down the tarmac start/finish straight. 

On the second lap the Swiss took the first three positions, with 28-year-old Neff’s advantage steadily growing out to more than 40 seconds. Ferrand-Prévot was powering herself back into contention in second position, moving away from former double Under 23 UCI World Champion Frei. It was not such good fortune for her compatriot Lecomte, the winner of all four UCI World Cup rounds so far in 2021, who had a mechanical problem, dropping her chain and dropping positions. Richards was drifting back towards the Dutch duo of Anne Terpstra and Anne Tauber working as a unit.

Formation of a Swiss 1-2-3 

By mid-distance Neff, who won the test event on the 4,100m Izu mountain bike course in October 2019, was maintaining a metronomic pace and stretched her advantage to just over 1 minute, finding the grassy edges of the course for every bit of traction and degree of efficiency. As Stigger and Japan’s Miho Imai withdrew, by the end of lap 3 the Swiss 1-2-3 had formed, with Frei (2nd in the 2019 test event) in silver medal position.

Richards, Lecomte, Tauber, Terpstra and Ferrand-Prévot had formed a talent-packed chase group almost 2 minutes back, before the French multi-discipline former UCI World Champion (for road, mountain bike cross-country, mountain bike marathon, cyclo-cross) suffered and pushed to hold on to a top-10 spot.

As the bell sounded at the end of lap 4 the two Swiss riders continued to work together, 1:27 behind their national champion to ensure that they could maintain all the podium positions. Lecomte headed Terpstra at 2’15”, with the Hungarian Vas holding an impressive 6th and looking strong after her 33rd-place start. The attrition continued to take its toll, with the adrenaline helping the riders through the final strength-sapping 3.85km. Neff’s victory never looked in doubt, and the podium sweep was confirmed.

Vas finished an amazing 4th , with Terpstra 5th, Lecomte 6th and Ferrand-Prévot 10th. The 2016 Olympic Champion Jenny Rissveds (SWE) came in 14th just ahead of 2018 UCI World Champion Kate Courtney and Catharine Pendrel (CAN), bronze medalist in Rio 2016, finishing her fourth Olympics in 18th place.

But the day belonged to the Swiss riders, with Neff proving the best, by some distance, in Japan. She went into this race with 74 wins, but the 75th will surely taste the sweetest. 

What an amazing race.

Quarantined again…

Well, it’s becoming a habit for us. We’re under quarantine orders again.

Damned Turkish anti-vaxxer idiot! Colleague of my daughter’s tested positive for Covid, despite her insistence on Covid being just a myth. Huw dumb can people be?

So yeah, you get the phone call at work from Covid Tracing to go home immediately.

On our fifth day now, and as I look at my brand new bicycle in the corner at home, I am absolutely livid that we still have another seven days to go.

All of us are vaccinated and the chances of contracting the virus is very limited. But still, we have to obey the rules. Because that is what people should do.

Not like that animal mob protesting in Valletta against rules and regulations. I wonder how many of those dumbasses will eventually contract covid and admit they were wrong.

Thankfully I can still remote work, but losing our free time is vital.

Olympic Bike Racing goodness!

Third Olympic bike race today, and while the first two races were the men’s and women’s d race, we had the men’s Mountain biking event this morning.

Surprise winners in all the races, with Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz taking the gold relatively easily, with Tour De France winner and runner up finishing behind him. I expected Tadej Pogacar to take this as well, but the Ecuadorian was well ahead. As for van Aert, he was not helped too much by his team mates.

Richard Carapaz, Wout van Aert y Tadej Pogacar en el podio de Tokio 2020

The women’s road race was a surprise. Totally devoid of any emotion or excitement. Except for the end because Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria pulled off one of the biggest ever shocks in women’s elite road racing to win the Olympic title in Tokyo yesterday.

The Austrian attacked from the gun as part of a five-rider break that managed to build a lead of 11 minutes before she dropped her companions on the Kagosaka Pass with 41km to go and held off the entire bunch to take gold.

The race also saw the Dutch team mess up their tactics, with silver medalist Annemiek van Vleuten crossing the line in second place but celebrating as if she had won the race. The Dutch leader later confirmed that she thought that the break had been caught well before the finish and that her attack with 2.1km was enough to take the title.

In the end, she was forced to settle for silver, with Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) taking third after a late chase.

and this morning the mountain bike race was an incredibly tough but entertaining race. Twenty one year old Tom Pidcock from Leeds took the gold as he literally tore his opponents to shreds.

The youngster went into the lead on the second lap, and held it easily until the end.

The 21-year-old gold medallist – who celebrates his birthday in four days on the 30 July – kept his nerve to win the gruelling 28.25km race ahead of Swiss rider Mathias Flückiger and Spain’s David Velero. Pidcock will now have even more reason to celebrate after he took the Olympic title in Izu, located to the west of Tokyo.

Thomas Pidcock takes gold for Great Britain in men's cycling mountain bike

Tomorrow we will have the women’s MTB road race… Looking forward to that!

Are we heading for lockdown again?

The numbers have been playing up again. It has been a savage couple of weeks in the world’s battle against the Novel Coronavirus.

France is in dire straits, England is locking down again, the United States are reeling under heavy infections, leading to massive job losses and financial instability, and to be honest, Malta is not really doing very well either.

Already jobs have been slashed, people being laid off, and worry starting to trend up once more. The positive cases are rising, as are the deaths.

And sadly, a large number of the population cannot see that their behavious is the cause of all this. Parties, gatherings, meetings, maskless people milling around in open flagrance of the rules.

The government has issued a number of measure in a bid to curb unruliness… I wonder if it will work. Meanwhile, keep safe.

WHY are idiots comparing wages?

I have tried to shut my trap about this, but keeping this to myself would be untrue of me.

WHO THE FUCK compares the wages of a Nurse, Technician, Mechanic, Welder, to that of a footballer, race driver, musician?

It is TOTAL IDIOCY, and people posting these memes should be sterilized, spayed, whatever.

One cannot compare a necessity to entertainment. It makes no sense. Not only is the nurse paid by our wages (in taxes), but living without nurses is absolutely impossible.

Now before people start jumping on me, let me remind you that you are under no obligation to watch Ronaldo, or Messi, or Kevin De Bruyne.

YOU DO HAVE, HOWEVER, AN OBLIGATION TO PAY TAXES. So yeah, let’s put our valuable nurses on the same wage packet of CR7, LM10 or KDB… let’s calculate that for a bit… ok, your taxes will be 50% instead of 15%. Who would want that?

NOBODY, that’s who.

I TOO keep a company afloat with my IT Support, but I would not imagine going to ask for those wages.

AND football, sports, music, keeps whole communities alive. Who has suffered with this lockdown? It’s the Chippy near Roots Hall in Southend, the Spread Eagle inn, the Horns and Boar pub in the same area… the cleaners, groundsmen, the train companies, southend Airport, vast numbers of other fringe earners … and this is all for a small club. Now imagine for large clubs. And we are forgetting the social aspect of week to week workers who look to football for an escape in a busy schedule. To relax, to meet up with friends in a bar.

Yes, both are worth their money. Yes, entertainers earn more than they should, but comparing the two is simply idiotic.

Rulebreaker! Not Really!

road

Well, that got your attention. Not exactly a rulebreaker… As most of you know, I fall under the vulnerable list. So it is vital I keep my distance from everybody else. And by default, all those who live with me must have no contact with others.

Fibromyalgia, Ankylosing Spondilytis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, the unholy trinity of Autoimmunity diseases. Just the luck of the draw I guess. I’m just like Pacman running away from the ghosts with just one life left.

So yeah, I decided that after exactly four weeks of total isolation at home, I simply had to breathe in the fresh air. Come to think of it, not so fresh after all, with this outbreak of Covid19.

In the morning I had called my mum, and she was really low with a bad sciatica. Her age is catching up sadly, she must be… oh, I don’t know … 290 now?

It was an easy commute even in these troubled times. Just pop down to the Garage, hop in the car, called mum from the car and not for one moment did we leave our vehicle. It was good to see her again, even if it was only for a few minutes. We keep in touch twice daily, of course, but still.

Anyway, it was then that the madness took over. I simply had to head over to my workplace. You know, just looking at the building. Memories.

The next step was the drive down to B’Bugia, and the roads were very eerie at that time. Barely seven in the evening but so empty. We finally parked between B’Bugia and Marsaxlokk, just down from Torri San Lucjan. Nobody in sight.

For the next ninety minutes or so, my wife and I talked the little things that married couples talk about. Away from children, even if the children are adults.

And I feel that this has done a world of good to us. Just the two of us. Complete privacy. Of course we hide nothing from our kids, but sometimes, you JUST HAVE to be alone with your loved one.

If you can find the time, take the opportunity to find some privacy. We need to remember that for housewives accustomed to doing their own thing while we are at work, this is also a disruption in their daily routine. That HAS got to hurt.

There is no need to mention that this is even more important for families with smaller houses. The most important thing is that if you are going out, keep the windows rolled up, and the doors locked.

Live Long and Prosper.

Who could have imagined it?

IMG_2213

It’s half past five on Easter Sunday morning. The mug containing the last inch of your first tea is cooling rapidly. You look at the empty street and wonder how the hell it got to this.

Let’s cast our minds and imagine the following situation.

It’s 2019, the 21st of December, Winter Solstice, and you are at a party thrown by a close friend of the family, just down the road. You and your mate are in the cinema-converted basement of said friend, polishing off the remains of an excellent fine wine, and of course listening to a battered vinyl copy of Rush’s opus. 2112. Required listening right? Hell yeah, its the 21st of December.

“You know Chris, there is talk of a new virus in China. One sweeping across its cities. Killing everyone in its wake.”

You look up, thinking, what the fuck is he talking about. Then it clicks.

“Yeah, I’ve seen that movie. It’s called 28 days later. Or something.”

The idea that perhaps both of you have imbibed a bit too much trickles into your alcohol fuddled brain. Good job you’re not driving.

“No you dumb fuck. It’s true. Seems they ate some bats or some strange animal and it has infected thousands.”

You nod in pretend agreement, even though the wine starts to catch up to the movement and sloshes aroud in your brain. Geddy Lee’s high pitched warble pierces your ears as ‘Temples of Syrinx’ swings into full tempo. This is the fucking life, you think. His words are harshing your mellow.

“James, you twat, gimme a break.”

“Ah you dumb fuck, you’re pissed, is all.” he replies.

You start wondering what the number for the nut house is…

Back to now, April2020, and as James walks his dog, you raise your arm in greeting.

“Hiya Chris. Remember what we talked about on 21/12?”

You can only nod in sad agreement. The third death has arrived, and the question you always dread in your mind is… will it be my turn next? Or my parents?

You watch James’ collie pull at her leash, leaving you, once more alone with your thoughts. Heading inside, you realize that as a vulnerable person, this is your fourth consecutive week without venturing out through the front door.

Ranking the Nightwish albums.

So once again, the new Nightwish album has leaked.

Since I am waiting (like an excited puppy) for the CDs to drop into my letter box, I had no problem in downloading the album and giving it a spin…or two … or a hundred.

NIGHTWISH | HUMAN. :II: NATURE. - Nuclear Blast

Anyway, Human Nature is finally here. The two singles already released ‘Noise’ and ‘Harvest’ gave an impression that it would be another great offering.

On first listen my thoughts were honestly “Five years waiting for this? There is no standout track, no oomph… a feeling of emptiness and lost hope.”

It is however a very progressive album, and with all prog metal, many spinnings are required before the music starts to gel and make sense. And it is doing just that admirably.

(EDIT: Listening to the opera section in Shoemaker brings me out in tears every time. Impossibly, unbearably, beautiful.)

Ranking albums is very difficult since it is very subjective to taste, and also, of course, period. Listening to Angels Fall First and Oceanborn is a real chore. They come across as so dated. Usually bands have an opus opening, not so with Nightwish. Still great albums, but so distant in fare. Of course, Nightwish have evolved and that is a good thing. Each offering is distinctive and just like welcoming a new friend. There are NO bad albums here, rather, each offering difference and innovation.

I have tried listing them in a semblance of order, but realize now that they are just how I like to listen to them. Each album has been rated and the best racks listed.

If you want to listen to just ONE track from Nightwish for all eternity, it would be the incredibly beautiful orchestra-laden Ghost Love Score.

Here are the albums and what I think of them, as well as standout tracks.

Once 9.6 – Dark Chest of Wonders / Wish I had an Angel / Nemo / Ghost Love Score

Century Child 9.5 – End of all hope / Dead to the world / Everdream / Slaying the Dreamer

Imaginaerum 9.4 – Storytime / I want my tears back / Last ride of the day / Song of Myself

Endless Forms Most Beautiful 9.3 – Shudder before the beautiful / Elan / Alpenglow / The Greatest Show on Earth

Dark Passion Play 9.1 – The Poet and the Pendulum / Amaranth / For the heart I once had / Last of the wilds

Human Nature 8.5 – Music / Harvest / Shoemaker / Tribal

Wishmaster 8.4 – The Kinslayer / Come cover me / Wishmaster / Deep Silent Complete

OceanBorn 8.3 – Stargazers / Swanheart / Moondance / Walking in the air

Angels Fall First 7.5 – Elvenpath / Beauty and the Beast / Angels fall first / The Carpenter

Peace and Metal.\m/