Saturday, January 25, 2020

Issues to solve

It seems I have a problem.

I'd forgotten all about it but between sitting at a desk and sitting on a bike I struggle to be upright. 

When I used to run, I got good at tilting my pelvis correctly. Unfortunately, given all the time I've spent on my feet pushing a bike, I'm still fit enough to run but I'm running extremely badly. 

A stupid facebook ad reminded me of this last week so today when I walked, I made a conscious effort to walk well.  I walked faster and was in much better shape for It, in fact I spent much time wishing I'd run instead of walking.

So along with all the other good intentions I'm adding posture and yoga back into the mix. It's a long list but hopefully will help everything else improve the way it should.

Monday, January 13, 2020

January bivi 2020 and the Bear Bones Winter Ride

I've never done all of the checkpoints on the BB Winter Ride before.  Last year I arrived with an "ambitious plan" but failed to complete my planned route due to high winds delaying my progress.  Back then, two 65-70k days seemed too much and I started with a plan to fail, though I really didn't mind.

This year, two 80-90km days seemed eminently do-able.  It's amazing what the Highland Trail can do for your perception of "hard" and "far".  Still, I kept reminding myself it was winter and was happy to accept less if snow/ice other weather prevented the full lap I had planned.

I mapped an anti-clockwise route, with the Elan Valley as the final checkpoint - a suitable place to get a breakfast or a lunch on day 2.  Beyond that I didn't really think about resupply - which is an odd thing for me.  I planned to travel light with space in my packs for food and make do or divert to civilisation where required.

When the weather came in before the event I was dismayed to find strong winds and rain were the order of the day - yet again - for my official rides.  I'm getting a little tired of this!

At the school in Llanbrynmair we were so early we helped set out the tables and chairs then drank tea, loaded up and rolled out, my new Bear Guide sitting on the bags on the front of my bike for a Navigator's view of the trail ahead.  As I set off at a sauntering pace, Karl jogged past on his way to register and we had a quick catch-up before I set off a second time.

 Left and left out the gate and onto a bridleway almost immediately.  I was really early so there really was no-one else around.  Also, the way went immediately upwards and was heavily loaded with cow shit most of the way to the top. 

At the top, a cluster of pens with cat flaps surrounded a heat lamp under which three kitties huddled in a cat basket.  Cute but a little weird.  Above that, a house, gates and open access to the moor where the herd of cows waited to walk nonchalantly ahead of me for the next 200m.  One, with an eye lid hanging off where, presumably, the cow with horns had poked it in the eye.  It was fetid and minging and bloody but it was too early for me to disturb anyone in the house about it.  I followed the half blind cow along the path slowly until eventually the field opened out and I could ride.

There were plenty of beautiful moments above Pennant on the moors.  The wind hadn't got too bad.  The rain hadn't started.  I made a few navigational errors and had a wonderful hike a bike up a near-vertical waterfall to get back to where I started 30 minutes earlier before dropping down.  How was it that left and right were already getting muddled in my head?  Cow Shit Hill must've been harder than I expected.

I descended the valley on forest tracks, passing at one point through a bunch of hunters - the hounds way up on the hill and then random middle aged white men with rifles and green/grey clothing waiting ominously.  I verged between being pleasant and aloof and trying to get the fuck out of there before I got shot.

Finally, to the road between Macynlleth and Dylife.

At first the ride up the steep road was wind-assisted.  A slight tail-to-cross wind caught my back enough to push me uphill and I found myself soft-pedalling up a 20% incline.  Soon though, the cross-vector took over and I had to lean hard right to resist being blown sideways.  Finally, I didn't have enough lean and the wind was lifting me and the rear bike wheel off the ground.

Like being hit by a transit van, I veered sideways across the road, hit the grass verge, half-flipped over the bars/bike and rolled backwards down the slope slamming into the wire fence that caught me from being blown into the field.  Bollocks.

I tried riding once more, ready for it this time - but the gusts were too strong and I had to slam brakes on before being catapulted again.  I climbed off the bike and started to push.

Even that was getting harder and harder.  I stopped at the top of a rise, in the lee of a bank and assessed the situation ahead.  The wind was ripping over the saddle ahead of me, the grass flattened and the rain droplets flying horizontal.  There was no point in going backwards, but could I make it forwards?  I walked out into it.  Within seconds, the bike was rammed against my leg, forcing me over, forcing me towards the steep grass verge to my left, the barbed wire.  In preference to falling again, I dropped to my knees and pressed the bike into the grass.  I was still being pushed over so I stuck my elbows and head in the grass and waited... and waited and waited.  A car passed without even stopping.  I know we're not all cyclists but if I saw a bike on its side and a person on their knees, I'd probably stop.

What little respite I got from the gust was still too strong for me to stand up.  This was it, I was stuck here forever.  My only hope, was to try walking with the bike down wind of me and - if the worst come to the worst - let go of her to blow away all the way to Aberdovey without me.  The problem was, I couldn't stand up and I couldn't stand the bike up against the wind.

I crawled around to the upwind side of my bike, every limb fighting the wind when I lifted it.  The bike bags caught the wind and I couldn't push her up so I flipped the bike upside down and over, letting the wind blow through the wheels until the handlebars were by my side.  Tentatively, I righted the bike and half-stood.  With me bent-double and the bike at 45 degrees to horizontal, we half crawled, half tripped our way up the hill, occasionally stopping to let the back wheel come back down to earth as my bike behaved like a kite, occasionally stopping for me to drop to my knees in the gusts, ramming my handlebars into the road.

Walking on the right hand side next to the embankments was less breezy but the saddle of the hill was almost impossible as all winds channelled up the valley into a 6ft gap.

After an eternity of battling I reached a view point - a wonderful slate wall offering wind protection.  I was joined by 6 more passengers to the wind.  We all empathised about the conditions, ate, checked our teddy-bears and tried to make some plans.  Someone said, "oh, and here's the rain, 25 minutes early".  "What time is it?" I asked, as medium-sized droplets started to pelt us through the gaps in the slate.  "1:30". It was time for some food - 4 hours had lapsed and I hadn't eaten.  Lunch was a cereal bar.

Not pouting.  This is my "angry at the weather" face.  Nobody pouts with food on their face.
I was worried about the descent off the other side.  The cross wind climb was bad enough but the thought of doing it with any speed behind me filled me with dread and I didn't relish the idea of a long downhill hike.  89km was starting to go down the toilet.

Thankfully, just over the brow, my route took a turn off the road onto a broad gravel trail which snaked its way through the Cwms and reservoirs west of Dylife and into my first checkpoint.

Rain sheeting across the dam at the tiny Llyn Cwm Byr and my trail snaking off into the cloud.
It was an enjoyable down hill, the worst of the wind taken away by the hillsides and rough grass surface that had replaced farmland meadows in the valley.  I plotted my route along the track and into the trees, instead of following the edge of the valley down river on an alternate bridleway.  I don't know which was best but I enjoyed the temporary shelter afforded by the forest for a while before arriving at the Afan Hengwm to the next checkpoint at Llyn Llegad Rheidol.

I laid my bike down and hiked up and down the banks for a while, trying to decide how the hell to cross the roaring river when out the corner of my eye I saw movement.  A lone BearBone was standing on the bridge up stream - a bridge I may not otherwise have noticed - so I pushed and hauled my bike over rocks to reach his previously known position, crossing the river unscathed (though not by any means dry).  He did not notice me, he chose a different path and I do not know who he was but I am very grateful to him.

Another tiny watery blip in the mountains came at 16:09 which, had it been a nice day, would probably have been sunset.

No sooner had I regained the trail, I realised where I was.  I got my feet wet here before - falling off the boulders (now submerged) the last time I crossed this river and didn't notice the bridge.  It was in the BB 200 route and I recalled that the worst was yet to come.  Please please please I thought, don't say I routed myself that way.

Not much further
I didn't - although I did hike-a-bike push into the "sunset" up a 20 degree slope of clod and I couldn't help think of Ben Alder in Scottish "summer".  It was the kind of climb I enjoy because I like wild walks and sometimes I just happen to take my bike on them but also it's the kind of climb I'm glad I'm not putting someone else through my poor route choices because they'd be miserable.  However, 45 minutes later I was at the slightly larger Nant-y-Moch reservoir.  It was 1645 and I still hadn't had lunch.  By now I was pouring brazil nuts and fruit into my gob straight from the bag so straight road sections like this were very welcome.  This reservoir also had two high walls along the dam which gave me some respite from the weather and clearly made me rather happy.

I crossed this dam en route to the next checkpoint, its sister reservoir, Llyn Craigypistyll.  By 4:45 and no lunch, I wasn't thinking too well and I was soaked to the skin.  At the other side of the dam, I found a sheltered spot (still wasn't very sheltered) and carried out the, now very necessary, task of adding a layer on my top.  I considered switching my baggy shorts for waterproof trousers - the wet leggings were no longer cutting it without the warmth of daylight.  Unfortunately my favourite trousers don't permit me to pull them on over boots so I didn't brave the extra exposure and opted for faster riding instead.  My last act was to wring the water out of the bear's feet and pack him away in my rucsac in the vain hope that he might stay slightly drier and slightly lighter (it didn't work).

The road was a welcome relief from bog-hopping and gravel-bashing and I smashed out a few ks on the road before following the route up a dirt track.  I soon noticed it was an out-and-back and whilst I knew I'd routed an out-and-back, I didn't actually expect myself to be this far round so soon so I checked the Garmin.

I was indeed en route to Llyn Craigypistyll - a place I later found out had been placed to encourage a rather fun descent.  I set off again and ground my way up the slope - which was hard, knowing I'd have to retrace my pedal-strokes soon enough.  Just as I was losing faith, my front light caught a fawn-coloured heap of earth by the side of the road.  On top of it, perched like a rock, ground into stone, was a nightjar.  Its beady eye briefly assessed my incursion on its surroundings and in a flash it was airbourne, leaving me to question what I had just seen.  I'm fairly new to twitching and since I have read about the nightjar I remain intrigued by them and at a loss as to how I might one day see one of these illusive and incredibly well camouflaged nocturnal creatures.
redlist nightjar image

The blurb above indicates they're summer visitors so I'd be surprised if I really did see one.  Chances are they bugger off in this weather - though temperatures are decidedly May-like at the moment so you never know.Lord knows how you spot one on foot as a twitcher, never mind photograph the things but on the seat of a bike you suddenly illuminate stuff that didn't expect you to be there.  Maybe one day

This brush with birding notoriety brought all the satisfaction I needed to the climb so by the time I reached the locked gate across the bridleway, I was beyond redeemed.  I couldn't be arsed to lift my bike over steel so I waved at the next checkpoint, 500m below in the blackness and did a u-turn, beaming with joy at my nightjar sighting.

At the next checkpoint, Dinas, I'd dreamt of pitching up by the lakeshore by the boating hut with a fellow BearBones rider, rolling out my bivi, watching the stars from a well insulated cocoon, dwelling on a wonderful dinner and a snifty whisky.  I hadn't actually looked at where it was into my route but it looked like somewhere sheltered and quiet.

As it was, I rolled down the friendly access driveway to the reservoir and peered over.  I could just about see the water ahead but little else in my light.  Certainly the boat houses on the map were on the other side of this gate and it was still only 6pm.

I did a U-Turn and headed back out.
After Dinas, my route turned up onto a bridleway which cut off the road section through Ponterwyd then headed towards the next checkpoint - the butterfly park.  However, at 6pm, I needed to eat and my general plan was to head for the nearest conurbation and keep hunting until I found real food.

Better than looking at my Garmin, when I spilled out on to the road, there were streetlights glowing through the rain and there was nowhere else I wanted to be but by the warm glow of those streetlights.  I passed the bridleway entrance and freewheeled down the hill towards the village.

At the tee junction, I could see a BP garage to the right and at least decided to seek coffee, chocolate and directions - possibly use of a toilet.  I locked up the bike and squelched indoors.  "Don't be alarmed", I said.  The lady behind the counter smiled whilst I got my coffee and chose chocolate.

"I think the others have mostly gone to the pub" she said.  It's like she read my mind - and yet I was pleased that there were "others" in the area.  Clearly I was not alone.  We chatted whilst I drank my coffee and dripped on the floor.  I explained we had all started at different times and were doing different things so I didn't know if any more would come.  From what I'd heard, I didn't expect so.  Most people seemed to have a plan to bail out or sleep in their cars.

I asked if I could use the loo but then she pointed out she'd just given me directions to a nice warm pub - fair point.  I'm glad someone's brain was working.

As promised, as soon as I turned out of the garage (right - so it was a good call not to go left into the village), I saw the lights of the pub.  I couldn't see the others' bikes out front so went to my usual spot in the beer garden with the bike hidden from the road and locked to a picnic table.  Good job as I forgot to bring the garmin in and wasn't frickin going back out for it until it was time to leave.

I gathered together electronics, dry gloves for the departure and clean waterproof trousers and dry top for the pub.  Inside was a small bar with Reg, Froggy, Steve, Rich, Psling and Kev(Raggedstone) huddled at the table by the fire.  I was welcomed with cries of "don't sit down!" although the barman very happily brought me a bin bag to park my wet backside on.  For a while I took a table to myself - intending to ABSOLUTELY FILL it with food - leaving no space for anyone else but was joined by Psling and Kev (I think) to eat our meals together.

They tried to second-guess where I'd been but I was too tired to remember and had left the Garmin on my bike.   Eventually I remembered to say I was heading for Elan and they concluded I was going to Claerwen Reservoir on the way.  They warned me of the one ford I had to cross - which they thought was rideable - and then told me all the others had bridges. I bloody hoped so.  Since the Highland Trail (and in fact, before it) I've been wary of being washed away - with or without my bike - and today's experiences of the breeze, weren't helping.

At a changing of the guard, three souls set off into the wet and windy weather to bivi/bothy whilst others debated taking a room for the night over additional courses, pints, deserts and further tea (me).

Sitting by the fire with my socks, boots and tops drying on the hearth gradually increased the likelihood that I would venture back out for the night.  I'd come to prove myself to myself, not to hunker down in a hotel or get a lift home.  It was only one night after all and I had a new sleeping bag to test which is rated to 0 degrees so perfect conditions were prevailing and may not be later into winter.

A lemon meringue pie was the final calorie loading I needed... and a wash down with tea and then I set off into the mizzle (brief respite in the storm) to hack out a few more miles.  On up the road, the empty empty road.  This is why I like riding in the dark and poor weather.  I eventually reached the butterfly house at 1042 pm.  A quick scout revealed I wasn't going to get away with joining the butterflies in the polytunnel for the night so I retraced to the true display of the darkness, the light show taking place at the Cwn Reidol Reservoir weir - all blue and green.  Very nice.

To sate the cold seeping into my bones, I took the bridleway up the slope above the village for a brief hike to get the blood flowing.  There had been talk of bothies and Devils' bridge whilst I was in the pub but I didn't take notice.  Both the sleeping bag and the Trep were on test so I continued with my resolve to sleep wherever the mood took me - be it in desperation or by stumbling across something dry and/or sheltered.  I don't mind rainy sleeps too much - especially when it's only the one night - but I can't abide snorers or farters or alarm clocks or phone notification in the middle of the night and being forced to get up and get out from the dry is worse than deciding for myself I'm too wet/cold/need to get moving.

Still, as I passed through Devil's bridge, I started to open my eyes to shelter opportunities and just as I was about to turn my back on the area, I noticed a small woodland just off the road with picnic tables.

For a while I jostled down the path, hoping there would be some more discrete tables away from the road but it just got wetter and wetter so I reverted to the roadside table and set up a bivi on the table with a tarp over my bike to keep boots, coat, helmet, socks and rucsac dry.  I emptied my food into my bag and - for the first time ever - climbed inside wet.  There had been a break in the rain - just long enough to get set up but as I began to get ready to climb in the rain restarted so getting into dry clothes went out the (non-existent) window.  I decided to save them for the morning - or mishap.

A few things went wrong here.  I should've bivvied on the ground and used the tarp to keep the rain off my head.  Instead I pulled the bivi over my head so spent the night breathing into it building up condensation.

I forgot a pillow - all my dry clothes were in the bag that I use as a pillow.  I used a sit mat that I'd brought for comfort and stacked my gloved hands under my head.  It worked for a bit but my shoulders got tight.  Eventually I pulled my drip dried rain coat inside to use that which worked remarkably well with a fleece hat on to protect my head from the wet.  However, the coat eventually spread out and wasn't much of a pillow.

Given the slightly damp sleep I was getting, it isn't surprising that I woke with the alarm 2.5 hours later, slightly chilly and ready to go.  The down bag had hydrophobed (just as it says on the tin) so that was good but it wasn't getting enough loft in this bivi to do a great insulating job.  In future I might be testing my old bivi for a looser fit.

At 3:30am though, I was relatively raring to go.  I was keen to live up to my plan to complete all of the checkpoints and needed all the time I could get.  Also, it wasn't *actually* raining.

Wake up photo.

And looking into the trees from the slimy-est picnic bench ever invented.

Alarming happy camper.
Kit packed away reasonably quickly, I set about devouring the chocolate stash for breakfast.  A boost a boost, a chocolate boost! Pont Rhyd Groes passed in my bike lights.  I spend much of my bike packing life noseying at expensive country town properties perched perilously on steep road climbs - they are some of the moments I remember most from Ireland, the Braunton 150, many bearbones and audax events - steep, silent communities.

Reluctance to leave town with its tempting bus stops, led me to quiz the Garmin.  How far was it to my next checkpoints?  Was there even any point in being here?  Fortunately I worked out it was around 15km to get there and then there were 3 within a 10k radius.  It was worth it, if only to pass the time before I could phone for a tempting recovery at a decent hour.

Then eventually I stepped out onto the moors, the chossy chossy moors.  For a good while I pushed over clods in the darkness.  At 5am I questioned my life choices.  I made some reasoned guess that I'd see the land start to lighten in 2 hours (surely, there'd be an hour-long sunrise?).  At 5:30 I lost my way.  In pushing along a trod, I'd missed my path.  For a while I hoped it was a Garmin mapping error as there was no alternative route shown on my map and the actual course was exactly 200m to my right (ergo, at the bottom of a bloody big hill) but where the track turned right 90 degrees, mine did not.  Reluctantly I saved my ride and got the other GPS out - the one with the OS maps on.  I was on the wrong path.  The one I had been following was a footpath and stopped in the middle of the moor and went nowhere - possibly to a grouse butt?  I turned tail and retraced - thankfully the trod becoming more rideable downhill - and found my route.  I could see the headlines, "Hypothermic mountainbiker dies on moors - she had a map, compass, dry clothes - everything she needed yet she didn't act".

More lonely civilisation at the building with the right hand turn - trying to sneak through the gate without waking the obvious dog.  He barked a few times then couldn't be bothered.  Me, I zipped down the road - happy to be picking up speed again.  Even the steep road climbs couldn't damp my appetite and I enjoyed every single inlet along the Claerwen reservoir as I eked my way towards the checkpoint dam.  They were long kms but they were fast-ish (except for the occasional hike-a-puddle) so they all added up to knocking ks off the route.

In a gradual lightening of the sky Claerwen was as close as could be to a sunrise.
Somewhere along the byway next to Claerwen reservoir I noticed that the banks of the road, the fields next to me were no longer dark grey but fawny-grass colour.  The day had arrived.  I'd been riding for 4 hours.  The river crossings were going extremely well but eventually it had to come didn't it?  The ford loomed large - over 30 ft of water crossing to be done.  I checked up and downstream for a bridge but there really wasn't one and where the channels were narrower they were also deeper.  There was nothing else for it.

I didn't ride it, I strode out across it purposefully with the bike downstream so it wouldn't pull me over.  My boots and socks were already saturated so it really didn't matter - except my left leg warmer had slipped down so that was now in the full flow of the water and also saturated.  It still wasn't as bad as my May Corrieyarick pass crossing.

I carried on for a while after until I could find a sheltered spot to sit down, relieve myself of the sloshing boost full of water and pull my leggings up to "dry out" inside my waterproof trousers.  A peppermint cream made an excellent addition to this activity.  Little did I realise that I was being gained on!
If you look just to the right of this pic you can see Javi enjoying the moment.
I nearly didn't pic the dam.  Having stopped to eat something and empty the water out of my boots, I was keen to get going but just at the last minute I decided to keep my records.  As I turned in a layby to take this shot, an orange coat came into view, pointing out at the reservoir and possibly taking his own pics.

Further down the road I was joined by a sprightly Karl, Javi and 2 others (sorry, didn't register) who had a quick chat.  Javi telling me they were heading into Llan (this is what I heard) for some foooood and Karl regaling me with stories of Javi's alarm going off every 2 minutes for the last hours of their kip.  THIS right here is why I don't do bothies.

It was great to have their company for a moment but there was no way I was keeping up so I left them to their fooooooood and headed back up on my own path, secretly pining for a few hash browns and a coffee but instead burrowing into the Brazil nuts from the night before.  It didn't occurr to me that they were going to ELAN.

My turn was up to the checkpoint of Penygarreg Reservoir which I photographed on the way up, whilst still pondering turning back for whatever cafe the boys were going to, having already decided I was still behind and needed to make it to Elan! The fact that I'd just ridden away from The Elan Cafe didn't register.  Clearly I have to be careful about my brain not working at this early hour of the morning.

Instead of heading "straight back" I stuck to my route, in search of a last elusive checkpoint that didn't exist.  Still, good things come to those who fuck up.

I don't know if I chose the worst route over to the Wye valley to head home but there's every chance.  Without any breakfast in me, I resorted to the thing I was carrying that most closely represented a meal - beef jerky.  I haven't eaten beef jerky since Audax ruined it for me but have continuously carried a bag around for moments just like these.

Protein, sugar and a vague essence of chilli which is enough to persuade the body it might be hot food.  I munched up the valley and the world became a beautiful place.  With this descent off the hillside to enjoy,  it's hard to argue that the tussock hopping to get there wasn't worth it.  At best I was following a quad / dirt bike trail and then I got this as a reward.

At the head of the Wye valley is Llangurig.  I've been there at breakfast time before and EVERYTHING was shut.  There was a very real risk that if everything was shut this time, I would phone for a husband taxi.  However, I remembered my Banksy (courtesy of Fitz), "If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit".  Also, I think @Jenny Graham, "Never quit when you're hungry".  I had no qualms about walking into the Blue Bell inn in the hope of a meal.  The very real hope.

"We've got beef or lamb roast and the normal menu" she said.  I grabbed the menu and just stared at it.  "You know what?  Beef roast sounds great".

It wasn't until it arrived I realised I was eating *MORE* beef.  Lots of beef.  It was irrelevant.  I devoured it, the roast potatoes the parsnip, the extra boiled potatoes, the cauli.  I had no room for another plate of carrots and turnips.  I texted TSK to see where he was - out on his bike and eating in Mac.  That put paid to any temptation to get a lift home.

Despite the rest and the feed, I still felt like bailing out but I promised myself I'd ride, crawl back if I had to.  Indeed I knew I couldn't look myself in the eye if I'd got a pick up - never mind anyone else.  I remembered as I walked out that I had forgotten to lock my bike up.  Despite everything we've been through together, I was disappointed to find she hadn't been stolen.  I guess I'd need to ride it back then.

I'd plotted myself a lovely route back on the back-roads and forest roads around the back of the Staylittle / Clywedog valley but I couldn't remember their condition and / or steepness so for some reason I justified taking the main B4518 to get back.  I know it's a horrid road - I've ridden the opposing East side of Llyn Clywedog before in howling winds last year and looked across the lake at the succession of steep climbs on the other side.  For some reason I suddenly justified the struggle over ease of navigation and completely discounted the alternative Haffren Forest route which I've also done before.  I was pretty proud of myself for holding it together on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th climb and riding it but when it came to the 6th, 7th and 8th climbs (I didn't even know existed), I got off and walked.  Again, thank fuck for bad weather, there were very few other vehicles on the road.

Getting full value for money, I lolled into Llanbrynmair at 4:30.  Perfect time for tea, toast, cake.  Not the last one home, with two of my pub-mates still to come in - not far behind me - and the others already telling tales of a nice night in a shed and the train ride home from Mac.

It was a late one to bed back in Sheffield, especially since I insisted on doing the laundry to avoid the sticking pile of mess on Monday morning so bears-and-all (except us) went in the wash. 

Even fluffier than before
On Monday morning I slept through my  race alarms - 3:30am, 4:30am, 5am - only getting woken up by my 9am move alert on my watch to which the words, "Fuck I should be at work now" crossed my lips.  No Bearbones shower, I dressed for the office, threw in a few towels in case I got time for a shower at lunchtime and drove to work for my meeting, still smelling of sweat, damp and cowshit.  Thankfully the meeting start time was 10am so I got 20 minutes for a workplace shower and went into the rest of the day slightly tired and smelling mostly of a guy from the Lynx advert.  If I hadn't had bags under my eyes, I don't think the ladies in the office could have kept their hands off me.

Thanks to everyone that kept me company this weekend - no matter how briefly.  Thanks to Stu for the dots and Dee for feeding us and looking after us, even though you were poorly.