Hello? Helloooo? HELOOOO?

And so whose voice gets heard in hyperlocal?

One would hope that it is the local community, whoever that might be.

It's all about the people, isn't it?

Unit 2.5 of the #FLCommunityJourno course has Dr Andy Williams of Cardiff University addressing the content of hyperlocals and the people that get to put their view across.

Some politicians fear that the loss of local media is leading to a ‘democratic deficit – where communities are no longer engaged in local politics or decision-making in their area.

Or maybe it’s just that some politicians fear that their voice will no longer be heard, or at best be drowned out as local communities get to have an equal platform for redress.

A nice turn of phrase used by Andy is the "value viewed through the prism of democracy."

I think he means that if hyperlocal is going to offer any half-decent contribution to the local community then it is the chance to politely tell a politico where they might have got it wrong.

"Democracy enabling roles" are spoken of.

This is where we STORM the Town Hall, Comrades.

Arf.

An extensive content analysis of 2,000 hyperlocal stories has been undertaken by Andy and his team. Some of the results are quite staggering.

The LOUDEST voice within hyperlocals comes from the politicos - 20.9% of all content was attributed to a politician putting forward their view.

Compare this with the 12.4% figure for members of the public.

Andy also observed that there was: “no disagreement - the plurality of voices is narrow.

You don't want your hyperlocal to become a #localgov bitch-fest (nope - YOU REALLY DON'T WANT YOUR HYPERLOCAL TO BECOME....) but equally you don't want it become a sanitised love in with the careerist politicians either.

As ever, finding the compromise point is the difficult part.

A telling comment in the video is that mainstream news is becoming more regionalised. Your local paper is now subbed and published in a different town. Remove the content from the source and you lose a little of the love that goes into producing it in the first place.

Um... I wonder how long @ColchChronic will remain in hibernation?

Ha!

04/23/14; 01:19:03 PM

aka... Innovation in Community News.

'cos it's all about keeping it lean and mean, isn't it Comrades?

Innovation is all very well, as long as it isn't a buzzword to hide having bugger all funding.

Apt then that 2.3 was presented by Geoff Mulgan, CEO of NESTA.

Geoff spoke about the paradox of the 2014 media landscape (stick with it...) - it is possible to pass on your message to a global audience, yet most people now want to access content that is based within their own community.

How about sticking your head out of the window and SHOUTING?

Now that's what I call sustainability, Comrades.

This whole modern interweb ride for me has been about the ease of creating and publishing. Here's a box, type some thoughtful prose words into it and hit publish. You've just completed a task that centuries ago would have been only available to the printing press elite.

But what the chuffers are you going to do with this platform?

This is a theme addressed by Geoff: will hyperlocal follow a BIG media driven news agenda? Or perhaps become a shared resource for local content and data? Or simply local ads?

It didn't take long into the video for the F word to be explored.

FUNDING.

Oh Lordy.

"The jury is still out" on how to fund hyperlocals, explained Geoff.

Betcha they won't come back in for a second sitting, either.

THERE IS NO MONEY IN HYPERLOCAL!

It is as simple as that. You're better off focussing any spare time that you may have in creating content rather than dreaming of the dosh.

Don't forget to Pay the Writer - something that you will realistically never be able to. It's the reason why I normally tend to work alone on my projects, rather than makes false promises about payment to other people.

A "reliable common platform" for publishing is also looked at. I'd prefer a non-uniform way of getting the content out there. It's all about the story, but the last thing that the modern interweb needs is a hyperlocal Clone War of bloody Blogger templates.

Um... fargo.io.

Yer man from NESTA concludes by floating the idea of hyperlocals working closely with local councils and providing a PR service in return for payment.

HA, BLOODY HA!

No ta.

There is no authority but yourself.

Or something.

04/23/14; 12:47:57 PM

Week 2 of the Community Journalism course from Cardiff University and it's all about access.

And whaddya know - for an online course that is accessed seamlessly via the modern interweb, the first few units look at at how the internet has changed the consumption of community news.

James Thickett, the Director of Research and Market Intelligence at Ofcom fronts up a video entitled: How People Access News.

Tell It Like It Is, etc.

A third of people in the UK now access news content online. James argues that the modern interweb delivers where other traditional media fail.

I'd agree when it comes to the clumsiness and costs TV; likewise local newspapers fail with yesterday's news tomorrow. Don't even tempt me to spunk out a 2,000 word critique of 'buy the newspaper for more details.'

Radio is also bracketed into this delivery failure model.

Harsh.

I've always had an incredibly soft spot for radio. It was far from killed off by video - online radio remains full of hyperlocal potential.

I'd personally like to see more convergence [URGH] between what we traditionally think of as radio content and the hyperlocal model of the modern interweb.

Online radio exists for any musical genre that you dare to dream of or even invent. There is however very little online speech content covering a particular hyperlocal patch.

Is production time a problem?

Possibly.

Tech wise and the tools are increasingly making it easier to deliver online speech content as a live broadcast.

James then goes to look at the business of accessing content.

"The internet has taken away the local classified business from newspapers."

Whoops.

Paid for ads just don't translate online from print, be they local classifieds or the pig ugly roll overs that some local media seem content on killing off their audience with.

If you really want to relegate your valuable news content underneath the crass message of commercial copy then I have little faith in the content that you are trying to push out to me.

The growth of mobile and tablet is looked at as the means in which the power of the image to tell a story is taking over.

I still like the written story, online or offline.

"Voluntary hyperlocal models are very important."

Buy why should we accept voluntary?

Pay the writer, etc.

Citizenship outcomes” and the importance of impartial information are also addressed.

BIG media isn't exactly impartial.

Hyperlocal needs some new voices, some new local heroes and some passion in which to tell the story - any story - of a particular patch.

Who's in?

04/23/14; 10:05:18 AM

I had a few issues with unit 1.10 on the #FLCoummunityJourno course offered by @C4CJ. This session was all about your audience. It was stats heavy and layered with data.

It's all about storytelling, isn't it?

I've always been a qualitative rather than a quantitative type of guy. Never mind the length, etc.

I appreciate that BIG media has a lot to gain in understanding the twaddle of demographics and ABC groups. The uncertain future of building a business around the reliance of the free market means that BIG media needs to know who it is talking / selling to to.

But hyperlocals?

Me, we, etc.

Oliver Doerle from the Office for National Statistics presented a thoughtful video, exploring the possibilities of gathering information about your audience from his organisation. Phrases such as "harvesting" and "free data" featured.

I personally take the approach of creating and they will come. If you publish content that is relevant to your hyperlocal patch then the magic of Google juice will work you up the rankings.

You can obsess endlessly over stats and user figures. This then leads to more overriding questions about what you are trying to achieve with your hyperlocal.

Is it simply chasing web stats? Or would you rather reach members of your community to help inform them about local issues that they would have otherwise missed?

Sure, the stats help to point you towards the demographics, but if you don't know the composition of your own community then perhaps you are publishing in the wrong patch.

Oliver ended by stating:

"The Office for National Statistics is an unrivaled source of information."

I disagree.

I would rather be chasing stories than looking at who is living around me. #localgov meets remain the true unrivaled source of information for any hyperlocal. If you can't come out with at least half a dozen leads to last you through the week then you are probably more of a stats rather than a story led sort of person.

04/16/14; 06:43:33 AM

'cos everyone LOVES a good case study.

Perhaps one of the advantages of hyperlocal over BIG media is that you can put a face to the stories. We're not talking about crappy byline pics, either.

Telling a local story online is still about the facts, but it is also about how the story was created. Once you've explained the five W's then you get to give a little commentary about how you found these facts.

It's a style that BIG media doesn't really have the freedom to experiment with, unless you dig deep, deep below the layers of blogs and comment sections.

I turn to BIG media for facts and facts alone. I look towards hyperlocal to get a little more familiarity and personality within my patch.

And so #FLcommunityjourno 1.7 - 1.9 has a couple of case study videos.

First off it was Rhondda People and the collaborative approach to hyperlocal. This is a way of working that I've always been interested in, but in reality I know it just isn't for me. There's no harm in having a little bit of the friendly Dictator within your hyperlocal model...

Observation: The Rhondda People team all look incredibly young.

Not a criticism, just a passing comment.

Is this a problem? Probably not. We're all (kinda) faceless online anyway.

I loved the way that the workflow is organised by Rhonna People. The importance of face-to-face weekly meetings to carve up the news list can't be underestimated. Working online is of course ACE, but the subtleties of communication tend to get a little lost.

poker face

The advice of "just do it" is no cliche - it is what makes hyperlocal happen. You can sit around and ponder a grand plan and strategy. This amounts to nothing though unless you make those first online and offline connections that will hopefully grow.

The Rhondda team signed off by stating that:

"The main form of community communication is now digital platforms."

And here lies the paradox of hyperlocal.

You want to connect with members of your immediate community, and in doing this you find that your local community is best connected online. I often think that shouting through the wall in a friendly way to the neighbours would be better than banging out a forum post.

Will and Sarah were then featured in the next #FLcommunityjourno video. Will's hyperlocal patch is KX whilst Sarah covers Richmond in North Yorkshire. They also work collectively on TAL, advising others in how to set up a hyperlocal.

Sarah's initial approach was to identify other people in her community who were already active online. It's all about the network, as my favourite tweet (from Will...) keeps on reminding me.

I liked the transition offline that Sarah then explained. Having made the online contacts, she then took up residency in a local cafe once a week to talk things through with others.

The building up of Will's KX network was almost the opposite approach. He found himself harvesting email content, which then needed a more organised and collaborative means in which to be published. A blog seemed perfect for this.

The power of RSS features heavily in this video.

RSS is dead (according to Google...) - long live RSS.

My daily content consumption (ha!) is built around RSS. I work my way through headlines and content in the same way that I use to read my local newspaper from front to back, including all of the classified ads.

Maybe this is the one lesson from #FLcommunityjourno?

Will mentioned how Facebook has become a game changer for his work. It's a route that I would rather not go down. I actively make a point of stating that the FB page for the Wivenhoe Forum is simply a feed. There is no 'engagement' [URGH] there - not from me, anyway.

I would rather the community content not be farmed out and have crappy FB ads littering up the local messages.

I should write a case study on the Wivenhoe Forum one day, Comrades...

04/15/14; 09:32:23 AM

Part of the process in taking part in the Cardiff University Community Journo course is to take notes.

Plenty of notes.

I've pondered the best way of organising and possibly sharing these. Evernote was an option, as was m'blog.

But then the layered approach of an outliner seemed ideal. Add in the blogging options as offered by fargo, and BINGO!

And so I'm going to use this space over the coming weeks to capture my own thoughts and observations coming out of the #FLcommunityjourno learnings. Sharing it makes sense - it's all part of the collaborative learning.

Speaking of which...

I'm making slow progress. Nothing to do with the quality of the course (exceptionally high) but the whole work / life balance thing. Four hours per week is the minimum input.

The problem is that the subject of exploring hyperlocal online takes you off at many different tangents. Soon once click away becomes a whole morning of extra reading and viewing material.

But it's all good.

As the title of this outline suggests, I've ploughed through #FLcommunityjourno 1.1 - 1.6

This is more the very informal meet 'n' greet with the course tutors and other learners. It is an ...outline of what is to come.

First observation: FutureLearn is a fantastic tool in which to deliver the content. The multi-platform functionality means that I'm not restricted by time and space as to when I access the modules. I can see a lot of train learning taking place over the coming weeks.

As you would expect from a modern interweb content course delivered over the modern interweb - a large emphasis is placed on the social.

The FutureLearn site encourages conversation. An independent Facebook group has been set up. I'm gathering other #FLcommunityjourno learners on to a Twitter list.

And then there's the individual blogs that are keeping the shared conversation going.

The content for the course so far has considered:

"Community news sites can complement mainstream media by providing local news and information that commercial organisations would otherwise miss."

Yep.

"Such partnerships can be based on the exchange of local information for a share of revenue or distribution."

I would like to see some examples of how this share of revenue or distribution actually appear. My own experience has been a one-way relationship. Legacy media [URGH] snaffle up your content without even an acknowledgement.

You're not entering into hyperlocal to make money (I'm not even sure what you are entering into hyperlocal for, but that's for a different blog post...)

There is a very real social currency in term of links though. If BIG media lifts one of my stories, then the least I expect is a link back in the online copy.

Ah yes - the online copy...

Does it even exist?

It didn't take long for the buzz phrase of 'crisis in journalism' to appear - course module 1.6 to be precise.

I prefer the term Crisis in the Journalism Industry. It is now possible for the Who, What, Where, Why and When to be told for free. The publishing of content only becomes a ‘crisis’ when the free market moves in.

Tell It Like It Is, etc.

Richard Sambrook spoke with Professor Justin Lewis, asking: why is the journalism industry in trouble?

Competition from online was an answer. Being caught asleep in your own news patch wasn't offered up as a possible reason by the Professor.

Will hyperlocal replace legacy? In some areas yes, in others no, came back the reply. Professor Lewis then made the call to support and sustain [URGH] hyperlocal.

And good luck with that one, Comrade.

You can search around for a model to support this sector under your comfort blanket of research grants and external funding. But it has failed for BIG media then it will fail for hyperlocal as well.

There isn't a Magical Media Money Man who just dishes out the dosh.

Nope - THERE REALLY ISN'T... etc.

More teaching of hyperlocal reporting is called for in the video. Which is a kinda self-fulfilling argument for the rather fine (and FREE) #FLcommunityjourno course.

It really does come down to just chuffing DO IT.

You don't need an income from hyperlocal - you certainly won't make one. It should be the passion of providing a service in your local community that is the inspiration. Hopefully you will be able to bring others on board with you to help share the workflow.

Hyperlocal is not a hobby, but it is not a career choice either. You need to make your money elsewhere - this is true sustainability, Comrades.

One theme I was in agreement with whilst watching the video was the reason as to why hyperlocal increasingly matters. Professor Lewis spoke of how it all comes down to accountability. A list of Cllrs is just a list of names being allowed to do whatever they want, unless they are held to account within the local community.

Who are these people? What do they stand for? What is their power? How were they given this power? How can we remove them?

The concluding part of the module asked if hyperlocal will succeed where legacy has failed.

It depends on what you are measuring the failure of BIG media by...

Meaningful partnerships between journos and the community were called for.

We're all journos now...

We need to redefine what local news is. Old school gatekeeping and the language of local news twaddle just doesn't make sense to the world that I live in.

If local media can't speak for the community in which they represent, then who are they speaking for?

Maybe I'll find out in future weeks with #FLcommunityjourno.

04/15/14; 07:28:38 AM

"You're doing a good job. Keep it up."

Um, ta.

That's a greeting I get whenever I'm out gardening at the front. Digging out the weeds is a social activity that crosses social class.

You can read too much into the: "You're doing a good job." The Marxist analysis would be to analyse the mode of production and the control of labour.

But I'm simply wearing a pair of marigolds and digging around in MY front garden.

That's makes me part of the bourgeoisie, doesn't it?

Whoops.

Like I said - you can read too much into the: "You're doing a good job."

I like to think that instead it is a social response to the most social of activities. Working with the natural palette of soil and toil, any passers-by simply recognise that... you are doing a good job.

And yeah, I kinda was on Wednesday afternoon.

I often refer friends to swimming if they are looking for a social scene. We're all the same in our birthday suits is my reasoning. But gardening is the new swimming. Birthday suits are optional.

I never fail to be inspired by the passing interest. On the surface I'm simply digging beneath the surface. And not even with much vigour if I'm being honest.

But there is a definite social response to one man and his marigolds getting slightly muddy.

The south facing front garden back in Sunny Stockwell often leads me to sitting outside mid-afternoon on a deckchair with a knotted handkerchief on my head.

This is also a local talking point.

I don't buy into this enclosure and KEEP OUT principle to private gardens. They are there to be enjoyed, and not fenced off.

Um, within reason...

And so if anyone fancies a little more than simply commenting on my mastering of the mode of production, then you're welcome to Dig for Victory with me, Comrades.

"You're doing a good job. Keep it up."

Job's a good 'un.

04/09/14; 01:20:46 PM

I've been planning a Grand Tour of... Norfolk. It's something that I've been doing annually for the past decade. Have bicycle, have parental caravan, will travel.

I've pretty much exhausted all routes (known to me...) over the past few years. The mass BONKAGE that was the ride to Burnham Market that went wrong last summer caused a re-think.

How tricky is it to organise some half-decent cycling routes around a county that isn't exactly Petrol Head Central?

With a little bit of modern interweb planning, it's been much easier this time.

I'm probably teaching all the Garmin Grandma's how to suck cycling eggs, but WOH! The little grey handlebar device is proving to be revolutionary for me.

I've blogged before about the ease of using a Garmin Dakota to knab rides off other riders. But what if the badlands of Norfolk aren't exactly oozing with GPX files to lift?

A bit of cartography DIY action has set me up for the Tour de Norfolk 2014.

I chuffing LOVE maps, almost with the same passion that I LOVE cycling. bikehike.co.uk has been brilliant for me.

It let's you release your inner-cartography creativity by drawing a wiggly line all over a Google map. You then export the file as a GPX, whack it over to your Garmin and then overdose on gel bars ahead of a day of navigated cycling.

That's the theory, anyway. Come back at the weekend to see just how lost one man and his Garmin dreams can become.

I've planned three stages for Le Tour: an opening 125km Hunstanton hop, a mid-stage 42km rest ride going round and round, and then a 76km climb (in Norfolk...) out to somewhere I'm not really sure of.

All I need to do is sit back in the saddle, pedal and watch the Garmin grey arrow guide me around North Norfolk.

If you want to share any of these routes (and others) then let me know. I've got a Dropbox folder shared with other riders which is regularly being updated with all of our GPX gubbins.

So yeah, the Garmin Dakota - a self-facilitating cycling node.

I give it 10km before I get lost.

04/09/14; 06:39:07 AM

"What’s your local newspaper like and how often do you read it?"

Um...

That's the opening question posed ahead of the five week Community Journalism course being jointly run by the Cardiff University Centre for Community Journalism and Future Learn.

It's also a question that has inspired me (sorta...) to sign up for the free course, if for nothing else then to document over here the online learning process. I hope to be able to offer a more detailed answer to the original question, come the end of the course...

Some further probing from the course bumph includes:

"With the decline of local professional media and the low cost of publishing online there are more community and hyperlocal sites being launched to take the place of local newspapers and radio."

I don't quite buy into the replacement model for mainstream local media - not yet, anyway. I would prefer a positioning of co-operation. But that implies that there is willing from both sides.

Never the twain...?

Plus:

"The course combines practical skills in setting up a community website, identifying and building an audience, creating content, establishing a workflow to sustain a site, managing an online community, media law and ethics."

All relevant, all skills that are required if you want your hyperlocal to stand any chance of achieving your aims.

I'm personally keen to pick up a few tech tips. I expect the Wordpress route will be pitched up as one possible solution.

WP is a BEAST. I fall in and out of love with it, depending on my own personal mood each morning. A particularly wrong side of the WP bed morning led me to exploring outliners and fargo.io for this blog.

Identifying an audience should be straightforward. Your news footprint [URGH] is defined by your own hyperlocal patch. Sure there will be different demographics within this radius, but the whole point of hyperlocal is location, and not lifestyles.

Isn't it?

Creating content I can cope with. Establishing a workflow is something that I leave to Evernote.

Managing an online community, media law and ethics is probably a strand of the course that I would do well to pay particular attention to...

And so I'm pretty excited about the short stretch of #FLcommunityjourno coming up. Four hours per week for just over a month is the minimum requirement.

As ever, it is the balance of sustaining [URGH] a hyperlocal with a paid working day that presents most problems. I'm slightly concerned that #FLcommunityjourno itself will be relegated down my Evernote list when it comes to pulling in the wonga.

The Chronic is still on hyperlocal sabbatical - a victim of time demands and physical location. You're setting yourself up as something of a fraud if you bang out hyperlocal copy for a patch where you currently don't spend the majority of your time.

The Wivenhoe Forum however is a model [ha!] of sustainability. £40 a year is my investment for the hosting. I have an ACE team around me, happy to volunteer and help out with the platform.

The content comes from the members of the local community - hopefully the true purpose of any hyperlocal publishing.

It's all about the people.

So yeah - I'm looking forward to #FLcommunityjourno. It's still not too late to sign up for the course ahead of the first tuition taking place on Monday 14. I've set up some twitter list action over here.

Happy hyperlocals.

04/08/14; 05:33:14 AM

'cos it's all about the water and the rhythm. I took my time to find both the water and the rhythm early on Friday morning. But once the sanitised converted old gas showroom of an Essex indoor pool [gosh] allowed me to eat up the length, my arms finally found the rhythm that my morning swimming routine demands.

I've long since given up trying to work out just what it is that makes a good swim become a really great swim. There's no such thing as a bad swim; average swims are also just an illusion.

Or maybe they are the preserve of a sanitised converted old gasroom showroom of an Essex indoor pool?

I've tried to isolate the variables that make a swim grrreat.

Pasta the night before? No booze - both the night before and for breakfast. Other, um, abstinence?

All of these factors can be discounted. I've come to the conclusion that a great swim is more in the mind than in the body. Physical preparation counts for little. If you want to find your water rhythm then play positive mind games in the converted gas showroom.

I did just this on Friday morning. I overcame the rather big obstacle of the bingo Two Fat Ladies hogging the fast lanes.

Live and let breaststroke etc. Maybe the 66 girls were simply warming up ahead of finding their water rhythm?

And so a slow build up for me, and then mid-swim and WOH!

This feels good.

04/04/14; 03:16:17 AM

Delightful.

A disjointed working day and a little wayward scheduling. No worries. It all lead to the first: 'To the hammock!' call of the spring.

That's not something you hear said in the City.

With the grass seed having only just gone down at the start of the week, I was touching cotton so to speak, as I attempted to enter the hammock.

Hammock ownership has long since been an ambition of mine. I have purred for having the pleasure of rocking back and forth ever since the days of watching Popeye as a child.

Mid-life crisis comes in many forms; fast cars, fancy bikes or loose women.

I chose a hammock.

Rather conveniently the house came with hammock hooks, but no hammock. A bit of an eBay trawl later, and job's a good 'un. I can now hang it up and swing with the rest of them.

But in the first week of April?

Blimey.

I'm entering unknown hammock territory.

Getting in and out is the main challenge. There's no definitive technique. Like mounting a horse or launching a canoe, you either do it with majestic grace or you're left flat on your arse.

I wasn't left sniffing grass seed during the delightful break in the disjointed working day. I got my leg over [yeah] and was hammock happy.

Now what?

Tunes, words, and a cup of tea.

Neneh Cherry just seemed right for the occasion. A spirited, cheeky burst of cock-a-hoop street pop to celebrate the work armistice.

What's he like? ...the guy's a gigolo, MAN.

But not for long. My reading material of the Surrey County Cricket Club Accounts 2013/14 remains unread. The cup of tea went cold. I was out for the count before Neneh even got to track 2 with her Man Child woes.

I was awoken by the sound of my own snoring, an overcast eastern sky and a possible mouthful of Saharan sand.

Time to get out. Time to sniff some grass seed.

Happy hammock days, Comrades.

04/03/14; 10:41:26 AM

Locker room etiquette is WEIRD.

Actually calling it a 'locker room' is probably tinkering on the borders of swimming strangeness.

But the Americanisation of leisure is upon us. The next locker room Comrade to call me 'buddy' gets a camp flick of the towel around the short and curlies.

Way to go, um, buddy!

As ever, it's all about location, location, location.

And rather conveniently I have three locker room locations currently on my morning swimming radar.

Let's start with the lovely lido. We could even finish with the lovely lido, now that Lake Brockwell has embraced outdoor swimming seven days a week throughout the summer and winter season.

For all the art deco splendour within, the changing rooms at the lido are a little run down. One side of the gents is currently out of action. An overturned bench is cordoned off.

Routine is routine though. It hasn't stopped the lido regulars from still using their pegs to hang up the reminders of the day job. It's an unspoken rule that dictates peg etiquette. I usually leave my civvies scattered on the floor.

And then there's the walls of the lovely lido locker room, seemingly made of cardboard.

Kinda...

If walls could talk etc, which they actually do down at Lake Brockwell with the constant gaggle that you can hear coming from the ladies on the other side.

Gawd knows what they make of the operatic musical musings coming from my FAVE Brockwell Icicle back in the gents.

And we've not even addressed the hairdryer down the pants situation.

Best move on down the road to Brixton.

I'm finding much love for the Rec once again. This is my spiritual swimming home. Refurbishment after refurbishment has left the gents changing rooms looking... a little unloved.

And for all my moaning, that's the way I like it.

It's almost impossible not to pass through Brixton at the moment without having the manicured hand of gentrification touching you up. I swear that I grew a full on hipster beard, simply through cycling along Stockwell Road up towards Brixton Hill.

But the Rec refuses to gentrify, despite the best efforts of Lambeth Council and Greenwich Leisure Ltd.

The showers have some weird mini-fly type colony living in the far corner of the gents. They were there some twenty years ago and they haven't shifted. We're probably on the 100th generation. I like the continuity.

There's also some deep level topography going on in the gents at the Rec. The gentrifiers of Clap'ham and St Reatham have to suffer the folly of a 'village' changing room. Careful what you wish for Comrades with your attempts to inflict a rural mentality on urban life.

But back at the Rec and the Brixton old school structure remains. You shower collectively, and then put your Y-fronts back on in full public gaze.

We're all equal in the buff, Comrades.

But what of the Essex badlands.

Oh Lordy.

My third location, location, location locker room of late tops the weirdness table.

No surprises in knowing that it is a private gym.

Whoops.

If the UKIP steam room doesn't do your head in then the racist spa will certainly spoil your swim.

But only if you allow it to.

There's no such thing as a bad swim; all swims are to be celebrated.

Locker rooms however have to be tolerated.

I'm pondering copying the approach of my FAVE Brockwell Icicle: you stroll up each morning wearing your shreddies and a light overcoat, slip off the mac and then the swim awaits.

Come on in, the water's...

04/03/14; 03:55:57 AM

Let’s talk about punctures. Pesky little things. I've suffered a proliferation of POPS of late. I may be deflated but I'm not defeated. I am out of pocket though having paid various folk to patch up my POPS.

Twenty years of daily cycling and I really should learn how to repair punctures. I remember childhood experimentations of spitting on an inner to see where the POP is, sticking on a plaster, and then bunny-hopping the afternoon away on my Grifter.

Was it really that simple?

But now I'm all fingers and thumbs when it comes to the puncture repair kit. Patching up a thick rubber balloon must be one of the few tasks where it seems that tech has made the task more tricky.

How the chuffers do you take the tyre off in the first place?

I fail at the forks and levers stage. I understand the concept of gently easing the rubber out of the rim ahead of the spitting stage [SFW etc.] I always end up taking three hours what it takes a bicycle mechanic minutes to achieve.

The inconvenience [ha!] of punctures leads me towards paying someone to put in a new inner. It's a false economy built around the concept of personal failure.

Still, it's got to be better than the four wheel option...

Recent roll outs on various bicycles across different locations all seem to lead to... POP.

Pah.

Instead of a host of golden daffodils lining the estuary wilds or the streets of Sunny Stockwell, it seems that glass is growing around the verges.

I started to mentally map the broken bottle hotspots for my various commutes. I advanced this to writing them down so that I wouldn't forget. I even had ambitious plans to build some form of app that would log and alert you as to where the glass was seemingly growing.

But I became too busy jumping on and off various bikes, paranoid that every 100 metre stretch was a potential POP situation.

It never use to be like this. I once had a run of a decade [!] of London cycling without a single POP. All the bicycles were running with the industrial strength armadillo rubber.

I've still got the thick black stuff on the road bike. My cycling etiquette stretches to carrying a spare inner when riding in a group. I would soon lose any perceived cycling sense of responsibility when I pull over after a POP in the Essex badlands, and then ask if anyone would care to have a fumble with my rear black rubber woe.

Whoops.

And so yeah - I've suffered a proliferation of POPS of late. The Brompton is currently taking a breather, much in the same way that out of work actors take a rest.

Rubber recuperation.

04/02/14; 03:12:38 AM

Last built: Sun, Jan 31, 2016 at 3:13 AM

By Jason A.Cobb, Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 3:12 AM.