Playing with html5 video

screenshot of html5 video on decoded.legal

I've wanted to use video more on the decoded.legal website for a while, but I've just not got round to it.

Until this weekend.

It's really quite simple

Very, very simple:

  • take some video
  • convert it to the supported formats
  • upload it
  • add a track for closed captions
  • stick some html into the page code to string it all together

Take some video

My plan is for short — between 15 and 60 second — clips, dotted around the site.

Enough to get a snapshot of me, but not a complete replacement for what's on the site.

And, by "honest", I mean "not professionally produced". No fancy camera, no pro lighting, no high quality microphone — just the same setup I use for video conferencing. Initial tests suggests that this should be good enough for giving an honest impression of what it would be like to work with me.

Convert it to the supported formats

Wouldn't it be nice if all browsers supported the same video files?

Yeah.

No.

PhotoBooth records in .mov, and, to cover most browsers, I need both .mp4 and .webm/.ogg.

ffmpeg was being a pain on my Ubuntu machine, and a quick search on the error messages which it yielded did not suggest a quick or simple answer.

So, since this is just an experiment, I found a simple freeware transcoder for macOS, and I'll do the converting before I upload the video files. It's not quite what I want, but it's not problematic enough for me to spend any more time on it right now.

Upload it

I don't have any analytics running on the website, so I've no idea how popular it is. But what I do have is access to graphing of the traffic volume too and from the site, and it's not significant. In part, that's because I try to keep the page sizes very low but, more realistically, it's because we don't get many visitors. And that's fine — we're not aiming to be the Internet's homepage.

So hosting it on our own servers should be fine.

I pondered hosting the video files on our Peertube instance, but decided against it, for the simple reasons that:

  • it would require a change to the content security policy for the site, which currently doesn't permit any external resources (okay, not a big deal)
  • I quite like having the site available in .onion space, and so I want to minimise calls out to non-.onion resources. And since I don't have a .onion version of PeerTube, keeping the files within decoded.legal itself makes sense.

So, for now at least, they're just on the web server.

Add a track for closed captions

I want our site to be accessible. Not just in the "reasonable adjustments" bare minimum sense, but in a genuine effort to avoid excluding people. So captions were a requirement.

Fortunately, this is very simple (especially for such short clips), thanks to the html5 track function, which one uses through .vtt files.

These are simple .vtt files, specifying what text to show for what time period.

I haven't attempted to style them — I'm not sure it's necessary — but the option's there.

Stick some html into the page code to string it all together

<video width="100%" poster="videos/welcome.jpg" controls preload="none">

<source src="videos/welcome_to_decodedlegal.m4v" type="video/mp4">

<source src="videos/welcome_to_decodedlegal.webm" type="video/webm">

<track label="Captions" kind="subtitles" srclang="en" src="videos/welcome_to_decodedlegal.vtt" default>

</video>

To pre-load or not to pre-load

I rather like the fact that our website page sizes are tiny in comparison to most law firm sites.

So I've got two options, assuming that pre-loading the whole video isn't sensible:

  • pre-load nothing
  • pre-load only the metadata

Pre-loading only the metadata adds about 500KB. Not massive, in the grand scheme of things, but still double the size of the page, just for video metadata. That gives you the clip's length in the video viewer and, as far as I can tell, not much else from a practical point of view.

Pre-loading nothing means that the video player shows that it's for a video, but doesn’t show the length of the video until you activate it. And that doesn't look great.

So I'm still pondering on this one.

Next steps

I'll probably add a few more clips over the next few days, and see what I think of the approach.

Or, better yet, try to get an impression of what others think of them.

At worst, I've wasted a few hours learning something new. At best, I've got something new and perhaps even useful for our site.

Useful books for advancing your business

My bookcase

Having written yesterday about a book I would not recommend, I thought I'd balance it by writing about books and training that I have found valuable in running decoded.legal.

(I buy a mix of ebooks and hard copy books, but a screenshot of Calibre isn't as good!)

Links are to Amazon UK (other bookstores are available), and they are not affiliate links.

Here are some of my favourites:

Organisation

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity: probably one of those "Marmite" books, but the GTD principles really work for me, and help me manage my time and increase my productivity / efficiency. My key efficiency tip is that you don't need to read most of this book — the flowchart will tell you pretty much all you need to know to get started.

Presenting / speaking

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience: hyperbolic title, but I learned a lot from this, and it's certainly influenced how I present.

Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy: I'd like to think that my presentations are entertaining as well as informative, and the principles from this helped me develop that.

Confessions of a Public Speaker Paperback: useful in terms of planning, dealing with things going wrong, and generally about being a compelling speaker.

Negotiating (including price!) / deescalating / conflict resolution

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving: I still find some of the principles for negotiating in here useful, although I have tempered them with some of the suggestions from "Never Split The Difference".

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It: a different approach to "Getting To Yes", with clear, practical guidance (and only a couple of hours to read it, if you skip over some of the numerous, lengthy, case studies) .

Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High: another book about talking, and getting people to open up, to assist in avoiding and resolving conflict.

Advocacy / influencing

The Devil's Advocate: useful for improving both written and oral advocacy and influencing, which accounts for a large amount of what I do for clients (even though we don't do litigation).

Writing

A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting: I'm halfway through Ken's live virtual "Masterclass" course, and I'm so delighted I've finally found the time to do it. The accompanying book is great, but forcing myself to look at how to improve the way I write agreements is even better.

Typography for Lawyers: Essential Tools for Polished & Persuasive Documents: yes, really. Typography for Lawyers. Lots of useful tips to make your documents look better, which makes them easier to understand/

Pricing

True Worth: How To Charge What You're Worth And Get It: this is a short book, but it is worth a quick flick. I still struggle with pricing, and this helped me think about describing the true value to a prospective client of what they'd get from engaging me.

Book review: Rehumanize Your Business

Book cover of "Rehumazing your business"

tl;dr: I want a refund.

A friend recommended that I read "Rehumanize Your Business” — a book about using short video clips instead of relying so heavily on email.

Or, I should say, "friend".

I assume that they actually hate me.

I bought this book, for £13.51. (I'm not including a link, lest you should inadvertently click on it and buy the book.)

I could have bought 65 donuts for that price. Or three Raspberry Pi Picos.

But, no. I bought the book.

It is 224 pages and I read it in 10 minutes. If you skip the bits I considered to be fluff, and the bits which are marketing the author's own service, and the bits about maximising surveillance potential with click tracking (urgh), there are a few pages of what, in my opinion, amount to Actually Useful Content.

Honestly, this should have been a blogpost, not a book.

The gist of the book is:

  • use video clips of less than 60 seconds, especially with people you have not met yet, to build rapport
  • make each video personal to the recipient by using their name or common interest
  • use a catchy, short message in the email in which you link to the video, encouraging them to view it, and then reply to you
  • smile

That's basically it. So perhaps a tweet, rather than a blogpost.

Will I give it a try? Yes, probably. I'm not sure if it's for me, but I'm happy to try something new, and gauge the reaction.

Did I need to spend £13.51 on the book? Hell no.

goes to check Amazon's returns policy

Review: Xiaomi DZN4006GL Mi Pump Air Compressor

Xiaomi compressor inflating my Brompton's rear tyre

I was lucky enough to receive the Xiaomi DZN4006GL Mi Pump Air Compressor as a Christmas present.

And, since I now have a blog, I am going to review it.

Bet you're feeling glad you click on this.

But if you're happy to stick around, read on for a review of something which has exceeded my expectations so far.

tl;dr

A useful compact device, which exceeded my expectations, and is priced reasonably at £35ish. But a bit too heavy to be chucked into a saddle bag and forgotten about.

What it is

It's a small(ish), battery powered air compressor, designed for inflating tyres.

I think it's intended for use with an electric scooter (you know, the kind you can't ride lawfully almost anywhere other than your own garden).

It comes with a drag-string bag, and I'd have welcomed something in heavier-duty, wipe-clean fabric, rather than the quite nice black fabric they've used.

It also comes with a very short micro-USB charging cable, and adapters for different nozzles. I haven't tried them. There is a small pocket in the bag, which velcros shut, to hold these, which is a nice touch, but they don't fit in the pocket in the bag I received. Oh well.

Convenience

It's great! I was hoping it would be good, given the numerous positive reviews, but I'm very impressed.

I went on an inflating spree, checking the pressures on everything I could find: two bikes, and two cars.

The cars were not too bad, as I had done those recently, but my bikes were way under. I was amazed, as I had pumped them both up with a foot pump not too long again.

Perhaps I was just not quick enough getting the pump connector off last time, but:

  • my Brompton tyres should be around 100 psi, and they were 25-ish
  • my Elephant bike types should be around 60 psi, and they 22-ish

I hadn't realised they were so far under!

Speed-wise, the numbers just speed up, which was pretty impressive.

The convenience of the unit will also mean I'm more likely to check the pressures more regularly, and inflate them to whatever is needed, so a definite win there.

Size

It's a compact unit, and fits easily in my hand.

It's not heavy, but it's still a bit bigger and heavier than I could stick in my saddle bag and forget about.

Interface

The circular controls remind me of a classic iPod, although it doesn't have a scroll wheel.

It's easy to use, and — good news right now — can be used with gloves on.

It has a number of different categories — including bike, car, and motorbike — and those are basically presets / memory slots, as they store the last pressure you set for that particular slot. I'll probably use one for my Brompton, one for my Elephant Bike, and one for cars.

Setting the pressure you want is very easy, if you want to deviate from one of your presets.

The screen is bright, and clear.

Battery life

So far, so good.

I've nothing to measure it against, but it had no problem doing eight car tyres (increasing by about 3 bar per tyre), and four bike tyres (increasing each by a lot — between 40 and 70 psi).

I imagine that, if I was trying to inflate a tyre — particularly a car tyre — from flat, it would consume a lot more power.

It charges off a mini-USB connector, so it's pretty convenient (although I would have preferred USB-C).

Noise

Not too bad, and a bit quieter than the mains-powered compressor which came with one of our cars.

It's definitely not silent (which would be an unreasonable expectation), so no complaints there either.

Healthy eating, my new year's "resolution", and body image

CW/TW: body shape / image, diet

enter image description here

I'm currently on day 2 of my new year's "very healthy eating" resolution. After losing a lot of weight three years ago, I've been determined to keep it off and, on the whole, I've done pretty well.

I haven't done well enough though, and a few more kilograms than I would like have piled on.

Christmas definitely did not help with this, especially as I gave myself licence to have a few more treats this year than might normally be the case, but I've been more lax over lockdown that was probably a wise idea.

But, in short, something needs to be done, and now is as good as time as any to do it.

Healthy eating and lockdown

Except it's not, is it? Not really.

Even though I've worked from home for years, it just feels different at the moment. I mean, we're lucky. Incredibly lucky. We can get the food and other things we want, or close enough to it, delivered, and we have plenty of space to live without tripping up over each other, and a nice garden, and many other things for which I am, and should be, grateful. But even with all these things in my favour, it's not exactly a normal situation, and the extra stress of trying to lose weight, and finding the motivation to do so, is not helping.

I expect I will perserve, as part of the purpose of this one month (perhaps longer) of stricter eating is proving to myself that I can do it, but we'll have to do.

The blood sugar diet

My typical diet is aligned with the blood sugar diet, and I say "aligned" in the sense that it's my typical eating habit throughout the year, rather than a faddy "crash diet", after which I go back to unhealthy food.

I don’t follow the diet rigidly, as I don't think that 800 calories a day forever is healthy, but I stick to its principles, and I certainly consume a lot fewer calories than I did four years ago.

January, however, sees me following it more rigorously. Not perfectly — after all, the local kebab shop will not support itself in a pandemic, and I see it as my duty to ensure its survival, most usually on a Friday evening — but I'm not beating myself up about that, as knowing there's a treat meal at the end of the week helps me through the days when even drinking pint after pint of water doesn't stop me from feeling hungry.

I've done this approach of a month's strict adherence to the diet after a period of treats before, and it has worked well.

I also know that the first few days are the toughest, as my body weans itself off sugar. So far, I haven't had the headache which normally accompanies this, which is remarkable since I must have consumed my body weight in chocolate over Christmas.

What I'm aiming for

When I first followed this diet, I stuck to it pretty rigidly for months — a lot longer than the eight weeks proposed by the book. And, in that time, I lost just shy of 40 kgs. And I felt great for it.

Fortunately, I've got nothing like that amount to lose now, but I'd be happy to drop 10kg, and ectastic if it was 15kg, but either is going to take quite a bit longer than just January. End of February is a little more realistic, but may still be a stretch.

I'd probably accept "my jeans fit me comfortably again", but I'd like a bit more than that if I can.

So we'll see. I started at 88.4kg yesterday, so I'll just have to see how I get on.

But Neil, why don’t you just do more exercise?

Good question. Here are my answers:

  • I do, but, alone, that's not enough. My experience is that the best way to control my size / shape / weight is to be more careful about what I put in, rather than just trying to burn off the excess.
  • Exercise takes time, and time is something for which I struggle. Outdoor exercise also takes more motivation at the moment, as the times of day when I can typically do it are dark and cold.
  • I am trying to cycle more, but cycling seems to be a remarkably efficient way of moving, and so I'd probably burn more calories goes for a walk for the same period of time. But I'm a bit fed of walking around where I live, as I know the area inside out, and I'm not prepared to drive somewhere to go for a walk. So I'll probably cycle more, for the fun of it, exploring a bit further afield, but accept it's not optimum exercise (at least, not the way I do it).
  • I have a treadmill under my desk, and I'll use that more, plodding along as I work.

You're a "body shape positive" person; shouldn't you be happy with the way you look?

Probably. But I'm not. And haven't been for years.

I won't judge anyone for how they look, but that doesn't mean I'm happy with me.

I suspect that the mainstream representation of what a "good" body looks like has affected me more than I know (it's definitely not just something which affects women!), but even recognising that does not make it easier.

I could lie to myself, and say "it's a health thing", but it's not. At least, not any more. It's an image thing.

The better question, perhaps, is whether I will ever be happy with my body shape. I doubt it, but that's mainly because moderate exercise and a decent diet will only get me so far, and I can't see myself buying a home gym setup, let alone going to a gym with other people.

So let's see what January brings me, other than a persistent longing to make an incredibly unwise order at our local cheese shop.

Changing my Brompton's front mudguard

The Brompton I bought from eBay was in good condition overall, but it had a cracked mudguard at the front.

My guess is that it was caused by someone folding the bike poorly and, while it was not causing any obvious problems, it didn't look good, and it annoyed me.

So I fixed it.

The longest part of the job was waiting for the part to arrive, since it was seemingly held hostage by Hermes for a couple of weeks.

It arrived today, and it took about 10 minutes to remove the old mudguard and fit the new one. It was much easier than replacing the rear mudguard as part of the addition of the rack, which entailed removing the rear wheel.

So that is, I think, the last job I "need" to do. What I really need to do now is build up my stamina when actually cycling the thing, as some of the hills around here — steep, but short — are challenging me at the moment.

Although a telescopic seat post is still tempting me. Aaargh.

Self-hosted disposable email addresses with AHEM

Screenshot of webpage showing AHEM email service

I've run my own mailserver for years now, with a catch-all on some domains.

This means that, whenever a shop or service asks for my email address, I can give them a unique address, specific to them, without needing to configure anything.

This has a number of uses, but the main ones for me are:

  • if their system is compromised, my email address is of no use for credential stuffing attacks (since it is used only for that one site/service)
  • if I get spam from which I cannot unsubscribe, I can kill that email address without disrupting anything else
  • if they leak or sell my email address, and someone else uses it, I can tell

One thing this setup does not do well, though, is deal with the situation in which I want a disposable email address: an email address which exists long enough to receive one email.

That's because, once I've given someone their unique address, they can continue sending to it, and it will continue to funnel their email into my mailbox, until I take action to stop them.

Sometimes, I want — well, am forced — to give over an email address just to access something. (For example, I wanted to download a cycle map from Sustrans the other day, and they insisted on having an email address, which is nonsensical as they just emailed me a link to a PDF on their website. Why not just hyperlink the PDFs from the website, and skip the hassle?! (Spoiler: probably some kind of tracking.).)

In that kind of situation, I want a system for disposable email addresses, which exist only for a very short period of time, and which do not clog up my mailbox.

Just use a third party service?

There are loads of services which offer this, some free and some paid, and, to date, I've just used one of those. Since I've not used them for anything private, it didn't matter too much to me that someone else can see the content of the email.

Indeed, if you are looking for privacy from "hiding in a crowd", using a third party service is probably preferable to hosting your own service.

However, that trade-off was acceptable to me, and since I prefer to host my own tools, having my own setup seemed like a useful thing to have, if it was relatively easy to do.

And it was.

Relatively.

AHEM: the Ad-Hoc-Email-Server

It took me about 30 minutes to get a disposable email server running using AHEM.

The instructions on github sort of worked, and I can't tell if the bits which did not work out of the box are because of my lack of familiarity with node.js, or incomplete / no longer accurate instructions. Let's assume it's my ignorance!

I had a bit of a fight with angular, to make the project build, and I solved the error message by forcibly installing a particular version of it. Not ideal, but it worked.

After that, it built with some warnings but no more errors.

A and MX records

Since it's an email service, you need to set an MX record for the domain you want to use, pointing to a record pointing to the IP address on which you're running AHEM.

I chose a sub-domain of my normal domain. I'm using it for both the email addresses, and also for accessing the web server (via nginx).

AHEM can support multiple email domains, so if I wanted to do the same for one of Sandra's domains, it would be a simple case of adding the domain to AHEM's .env file.

Making it more privacy-friendly

I can understand why people do it, but it bugs me all the same: why use static files hosted by a third party CDN, rather than just hosting them yourself?

Out of the box, AHEM uses some JavaScript resources hosted on Cloudflare. I used wget to download the scripts, and then replaced the references in index.html with localhost references instead.

Bingo.

Proxying via nginx

By default, it runs on localhost:3000. Fine for testing, but not what I wanted permanently.

Since I had nginx on the server already, reverse-proxying to give a web interface over port 80, using the same sub-domain as for the email address itself (although anything else would work too; they are not connected) was easy.

It also meant that it was trivial (using certbot) to pop a TLS certifcate on the proxy, giving me TLS over 443. Even though the web interface will be firewalled off and accessible only without our private network, I'd prefer to have TLS in place anyway.

I'm not sure why, but the basic config was 404'ing traffic to /socket.io/, so I added a specific Location section for that:

location /socket.io/ {
    proxy_pass http://localhost:3000;       
    proxy_http_version 1.1;
    proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
    proxy_set_header Connection "Upgrade";
    proxy_set_header Host $host;
}

Making it persistent

I'm not that familiar with node.js, so there might be a better way of doing this, but I was struggling to keep it running when I closed my ssh connection.

I could just run it as a background process (by appending & to the command), but I installed pm2:

npm install pm2 -g

and then ran it using:

pm2 start ahem.js

The outcome

Now, I have a simple to use, self-hosted, web page, which lets me generate random email addresses to paste into webforms when I want a disposable address.

I need to refresh the page to check if an email has arrived, but that's fine. I should check if there's something I've not configured correctly, as I'd have thought it would refresh periodically, if nothing fancier existed to show an email when it arrives.

Email are deleted automatically when they are 24 hours old; again, this is something configurable via .env, but that seems fine as a default.

AHEM's licensing status

A couple of weeks ago, AHEM changed its licence from an in-house job to Apache 2.0.

This is a good decision, IMHO, but still needs to be reflected in the AHEM interface, since this says that it's only "available for personal and internal use".

The EZ Clamp Spring: keep your clamps in position

This post combines three things I like: 3D printing, cycling, and Creative Commons licences.

One of the joys of a Brompton folding bike is the folding bit. And the clamp system is both clever and robust.

But the clamps have a nasty habit of spinning on the bolt, which makes them that bit more difficult than is ideal when it comes to unfolding the bike.

The EZ Clamp Spring

I was pondering what I could do about it, and looking around to see what others have done, and a chap called Steve Wood (Gyrobot) has solved it with a very simple 3D printable widget: the EZ Clamp Spring.

It exerts pressure on the clamp, keeping it in the right orientation.

It's a perfect solution to the problem.

Print or buy: it's up to you

You can either print it yourself, or buy a pre-printed version ready to install.

Normally, I'd print a model myself, but the creator suggests a particular type of filament, which is more flexible than the filament I have to hand (and I'm not sure my printer would cope with it anyway), so I bought a couple.

Shipping times are obviously not under their control (especially at the moment), but mine arrived very quickly.

If you want to print it yourself, you can download the files from Thingiverse.

Installation could not be easier

Dead easy — about a minute per clamp.

You simply remove the clamp and bolt, thread the EZ Clamp Spring onto the bolt, and then screw it back in place. That’s it.

Once you've installed it, you can see the benefit of it immediately: when up undo the clamp, it stays in exactly the right place, ready to be tightened.

A surprising choice of licence?

The 3D printing files are licensed under a Creative Commons licence (great!), but not the one I would have expected.

The inclusion of the "NC" — non-commercial — restriction is not unexpected, but the "ND" — a prohibition on tweaking the file — surprised me.

I'd have thought that improvements would have been welcome, but I'm not the copyright owner, so it's not my choice!

Nice rack!

I spent an enjoyable hour-and-a-bit today, fitting a rear rack to my Brompton. I haven't bothered with a photo: it looks like a standard Brompton with a standard Brompton rack attached to it.

In hindsight, I'm not sure why I didn't buy one with a rack already fitted, but oh well. Aside from it being a way of thinking about Something Other Than Work for a bit, the process of installing it taught me some quite a lot about the bike, which is undoubtedly going to be useful from a maintenance perspective.

What I did

I worked out how to do it by following a number of videos on YouTube, and referring to the supplied instructions.

As far as I can tell, there's nothing detailing the end to end process, so it was a bit of guesswork, and trial-and-error.

Edit: someone has suggested it would help if I said what bike it is. It's a 3-speed.

I did things in the following order:

  1. Remove the rear wheel
  2. Remove the rear mudguard
  3. Put on the rack and new mudguard
  4. Put the rear wheel back on
  5. Replace the old front rollers with the new, larger, ones which came with the rack
  6. Fold the bike and put on the new seat post bung. (I say "new"; I didn't have an old one to remove.)

All in all, it took me about 1.5 hours. This included a fair amount of time re-watching bits of videos, to make sure I had understood, and intentionally taking it slowly to try to lessen the risk of messing it up — there was no rush. If I were to do it again, I'm pretty sure I would at least halve that.

Removing and replacing the rear wheel: what I wish I'd known

There are a few videos about this, all pretty similar.

There are a couple of things which I wish I had known upfront, which I didn't see covered in any of the videos I had watched:

  • The first step is to remove the indicator chain — the bit which goes into the hub to make your gearing work. It's easy to do, but I would take extra care not to move the nut, or to move it as little as I could. When it came to putting the bike back together, and making sure the gears were working, I spent a lot longer working on this that would have been the case had I left the nut in roughly the right place at this step.
  • How to deal with the brakes. I guessed that, rather than attempting to take them apart, the simplest approach would be to deflate the tyre and squeeze it through. Even then, it was a tight fit, but it work.
  • The "tab washers" — the bits which help keep the wheel attached to the frame have a top and a bottom.
    • Again, after the event, the official instructions do say this. Perhaps my biggest learning is to rely less on YouTube, and more on the official instructions!

I'm glad I've learned these lessons now since, when it comes to fixing the inevitable puncture, I'll be able to do it a lot faster.

Is it worth it?

Time will tell but, as with most things Brompton, this was an expensive bit of metal.

I have immediately noticed how much easier it is to roll the bike around when folded down. I had a real challenge with this at the station, as the small wheel on the old mudguard seized up every few metres, making a horrible noise and rendering the bike immoveable.

Some kind people on Twitter suggested that it is easier to pull a Brompton than to push one, but now it seems — on the basis of some very limited testing in the confines of our kitchen — to be better. A lot better.

While I love the idea of making the most of my new rack by heading off into the distance on a folding bike, tent and provisions strapped to the back, I'm realistic:

  • we're in a lockdown and, while this has got to be about as low risk as it's possible to get, I very much doubt it's consistent with the current rules. Whatever they might be.
  • even if we were not, I can find time to squeeze in the occasional two or three hour ride, but anything more than that is just wishful thinking.

Put it this way: I'm not going to be rushing out to buy luggage to hang off it.

Easy/Eazy wheels?

No.

Well, not yet.

I was tempted, but I'm very aware just how much money I am pouring into a a bike when I am not sure just how much I'll use it.

Next job: front mudguard

I think I'm almost through my (Brompton-related) jobs list.

The only other bit I really want to replace is the front mudguard, as that is cracked; at a guess, from a previous owner not being careful enough when folding it, and smacking the rear wheel into the front wheel. It looks like a pretty simple thing to fix.

My first ride through a Tier 4 Newbury

Tonight, I went for my first cycle ride through a Tier 4 Newbury.

It wasn’t the longest ride – about 30 minutes – and I decided to go through the town centre.

I suppose I don’t really know what Newbury town centre is like early on a Sunday evening anyway but there’s only one word for it tonight: tumbleweed.

I think I went all the way from the clock tower at the top, to the other side of the railway line at the bottom, without seeing more than three people.

From a cycling point of view, it was great (although I do need to adjust my saddle a bit, as it has slipped backwards). But what does it mean for Newbury?

The future?

I do wonder what Newbury, and perhaps other similar small towns, are going to be like, once the pandemic is over.

It used to be a lovely High Street, although in recent years, it has become replete with the usual stores, charity shops, and generic coffee chains. With one or two notable exceptions, you could be in almost any town without realising it.

I suppose that I am part of the problem (if the decline of the traditional High Street is indeed a problem), as the bicycle I was riding, the accessories on it, and every stitch of clothing I was wearing except my shoes, were bought online.

Not a new trend, but the pandemic obviously is not helping either. Debenhams is closing down, and quite a few other shops are now vacant, adding to those which already lay empty.

Places of leisure?

Perhaps High Streets will become places of leisure rather than for shopping?

But then I’m in no rush to head back to a restaurant either.

There are some lovely independent, or at least small chain, places to eat in Newbury, but the many offer delivery, and all offer takeaway. Which suits me just fine.

So we really are down to the situation which I wish to meet someone somewhere other than at home, and that happens very, very rarely.

If not food and drink, then what?

My occasional, usually regretted, trip to the cinema (more hassle, more expensive, more people, and less pleasant than waiting and watching the film at home) isn’t going to prop up that. And I love the Corn Exchange in theory, but I last went perhaps seven years ago? Life gets in the way, and I often can’t be bothered to leave the house, especially if it involves mingling with other people.

So, for now, I guess that just leaves the town centre as a place through which I can pass on my bike on a quiet evening.