Back in the saddle: the Etape 2018

A few years ago, I went through a slightly odd phase of signing up to long distance cycle tours. You may remember the general gist of how these things went – badly. If you don’t, here’s a brief recap:

12 weeks to event – I’ve signed up for this event! It’s 500 miles of mountains, yay!

11 weeks to event – Start of training phase

10 weeks to event – This will be a piece of piss, I did a lap of Richmond park today and it was quite easy

9 weeks to event – End of training phase

8 weeks to event – Tapering and carb loading phase

1 week to event – Dawning realisation of imminent failure. Prayer.

Event – Failure

Repeat annually.

I thought, having passed the cavalier days of my mid/late-20s, that a more sensible side was emerging. Perhaps I could finally accept that, fun though it is, cycling fundamentally does not like me. Perhaps I would find solace in more genteel pursuits like tiddlywinks or endless FIFA tournaments, at peace with my spindly chicken legs and ryvita-based knees.

Perhaps, perhaps.

So to bring you up to speed, the older, wiser me has foolishly signed up for the Etape du Tour in a little under a month’s time.  

Whilst I don’t need to reiterate what a poor decision this was, I will enlighten you with some of the hilarious challenges that this ride will throw my way.

The Etape

The Etape du Tour is an annual one day ‘race’ (lol) which follows the same route as a stage of the Tour de France. More precisely, it follows the ‘Queen Stage’ route of the tour de France, which is a pretty piece of phrasing which actually means ‘hardest stage’. Given that this is meant to be the hardest stage which is meant to test the limits of professional cyclists, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that this is going to be a ‘challenge’. Google suggests that it should be quite easy – top article titles include ‘Etape: the agony and the agony’ and ‘Etape: how much pain can you take?’. So yeah, lots of fun there.

A quick glance at the route confirms and compounds the fear. At 169km it’s already long enough to be a challenge, but what’s really, really going to hurt is the climbing. This year’s edition has a cool 4,017 metres of climbing in the day – put another way, it’s got Box Hill but for 100 kilometres. Just typing that makes me feel quite sick. What the route doesn’t really mention is the nature of the climbs. The Plateau des Glieres is not only an 11% average for 6km, but has a top section which is entirely unpaved, just for laughs. The Col de Romme and the Col de La Colombiere join forces to form a sort of double act from hell right at the end, like Ant and Dec. For context I was once overtaken on the Colombiere by two Americans pushing 70, on touring bikes, not putting in any effort, possibly smoking. I classed that as quite a successful day too.

How we laughed.

Thankfully, I won’t be taking on this challenge alone. As well as 15,00 wiry, angry French cyclists I’m pleased to say that the non-famous, globally un-renowned Mackenzie brothers have also signed up to this suicide pact fun, wholesome event. Together we make a great team, and each bring something different to the group. Harold brings height and a digestive system that could kill an adult moose at 40 paces. Andrew also brings height and an air of mystique, as I have not seen him in the best part of two years. I’m not sure what I bring but I know that it is different to the above. Our team aim is to finish in front of the rather ominously titled ‘recovery vehicle’, i.e. in under 12 hours.

Training

In truth, our group training has been somewhat hit and miss. On one hand, we’ve sent each other a lot of messages about cycling which has surely done some good. On the other, we haven’t been on any actual rides. Harold and I tried to go for a ride but were beset by two minor issues – he had a slight physical issue in that he’s not been on a bicycle in a year and his legs stopped working almost immediately, I had a slight mechanical issue in that my pedals fell off. Overall it went well.

I have been doing some actual training for this, much as that goes against tradition. I can cautiously say that I’m in the best cycling shape ever, although admittedly this is a particularly low bar to beat. As well as the occasional long weekend ride, I’ve started doing a fair amount of indoor cycling (or, y’know, spin as it’s otherwise known). I was a bit apprehensive about indoor cycling as every class seemed to advertise terrifying promises: ‘pumping beats’, ‘mood lighting’, ‘sense of community’. I had visions of suddenly spending all my time lifting small weights above a bike and getting really into kale.

Thankfully, I found H2 in Soho instead, which has been brilliant. All the bikes are hooked up to power meters, so you can actually track your progress against your own abilities. You also gain the ability to instantly become the most boring person in any given room by talking about power, watts and FTP – handy when you want some alone time at a party or family gathering.

Seriously though, this has made a big difference to my fitness as the classes are taught by knowledgeable coaches who consistently push you. It does translate massively to how you cycle on the road. As an example, I went on a weekend trip to the Alps a couple of weeks ago with the ever excellent Traverse Aravis (who are setting up an alpine cycling club by the way) and was pacing up climbs in half the time it took in 2016. As mentioned before, the bar is low so I’m still not fast, but it’s made a difference at least!

Training has been somewhat curtailed in the last couple of weeks due to my bike being stolen. I’ve tried putting on cycling gear and running to Richmond mimicking a cycling action but it hasn’t really worked, so I’m probably moving into the carb-loading and tapering stage. At 4 weeks out I am hitting this perilously late by my own standards. As I understand, my cycling pals are just getting into their training phases now, so we’ll see whose approach works better on the day.

I suspect neither.

Bonus ride

Given how easy the Etape looks, I thought I’d add a Brucie (RIP) bonus and have a crack at the RideLondon 100, which I’ll be taking on alongside some great people to support SPEAR, a homelessness charity based in West London. Harry and Andrew will be riding the Etape to raise money for Macmillan cancer support.

To skip to the obvious destination of the past few sentences, it’d be eternally appreciated if you would like to sponsor either (or indeed both if you’re feeling particularly generous) of these events and the very worthy causes they’re for!

Asking you to pick between fighting homelessness and fighting cancer feels a bit morally iffy, so to make your life easier, just pick link A or link B if that’s easier. Or if you want to choose one specifically, click wildly and randomly on these links until you find what you’re looking for.

Stay tuned for more tales of ineptitude and poor preparation in the coming weeks…

 

Glastonbury ‘just a muddy version of your office’

Revellers arriving at Glastonbury for days of inebriated mayhem have been shocked to discover that all of their colleagues are there too.

An air of tension hangs over Worthy Farm as festival goers try to reconcile the urge to consume as many narcotics as will fit in them with the need to not expose any genitalia to their line manager, who is camped seven yards away.

Entire reporting lines have sprung up accidentally all over the site, with attendance particularly high among those who claim to work in new media, management consultancy or any form of tech startup. Farringdon is reportedly empty at present.

The situation is especially awkward for the 78% of people who are have told their peers that they are working from home or attending a conference, with many trying to cover their backs by wandering the site and repeating the phrase “this immersive residential course is really going to help me pitch my brand to millenials” to every passer by they encounter.

Networking

“This immersive residential course is really going to help me pitch my brand to millenials”

Festival organisers have expressed fears that the inherently twattish culture of the modern British workplace is having a negative effect on the festival.

“We are worried, yes”, admitted organiser Stephanie Sinclair. “Last night there were only 9 people watching Florence + The Machine on the main stage, while we had almost a quarter of a million attempting to watch one woman talk about why Powerpoint is dead and all your deliverables should be presented in the form of contemporary dance. It might be innovative but it’s not exactly Glasto is it?

“What even is a deliverable anyway? I swear these people just make up words.”

Sinclair did concede that there was some common ground between the spirit of the festival and the corporate hordes who attend it.

“There are literally boatloads of drugs, which is obviously a big part of this whole thing. We’re also pretty sure that Kanye West will be a sellout – when he plays music they all start turning to their friends and screaming “THIS IS MY JAM”, thousands of them at a time. I find this confusing, as they’re rarely actually holding jam at the time.”

It is unclear whether behaviours observed at the festival will impact on workers’ day jobs, although there would surely be mass support for any quarterly review that reads: ‘Overall, Gary’s work has been exemplary, but I did see him chewing a tent pole at Glastonbury. I, however, thought I was a dragon and was wearing only ski goggles at the time, so I’m willing to overlook it on this occasion.’

Meanwhile, Sinclair and her team will have to work out how to attract a more diverse crowd to next year’s event.

“We charge hundreds of pounds for ticket, we open the phone lines at 10am – yet we keep ending up with crowds of people who loads of cash and jobs that don’t sound real.”

“I just don’t get it.”

Cycling the Alps: Tour du Mont Blanc

Remember last year, when I signed up for that stupidly long, stupidly mountainous cycle tour, and complained about it endlessly? Remember that?

Yeah, so it sort of happened again…

If no, incidentally, you can read about it here – although be warned, this is going to be quite similar.

If you’re terribly busy and important and want the short version, here is the entire article in a comma separated list:

Training regime and lack thereof, subsequent struggles through lack of preparation, lots of mountains, small amount of passing out, heat, fun, amusing anecdotes and similes, mention of good cause, link to charity page. Bye.

For the rest of you, allow me to paint a picture made of words…

Part 1: The training phase

I should put it out there straight away – I’m a terrible cyclist. Not in a ‘self-deprecating, I’m actually shit hot’ sort of way, but in a ‘I do not mix well with bicycles’ kind of way. I lack power, strength, application and stamina – my knees are made of dynamite and explode at the first sign of a derailleur – I’m semi allergic to hills. All poor traits to be taking into a 3 day, 330km ride with 10km of elevation gain.

So you can imagine my training was quite intense. Well keep imagining, because it wasn’t. My sportsman’s regimen consisted of 5 gentle rides to work, three weekend trips to Surrey involving a lot of whimpering, an ominous quantity of moussaka and a startling amount of weight gain.

If you would like a PDF of my ‘from fit to fat in 6 cheese-filled weeks’ training plan, please contact me directly.

So that’s the training part covered.

Part 2: The first day

Having dragged my bike, my pitiful legs and my freshly portly arse to Geneva, we set up camp in La Giettaz. There were around 30 of us for this trip, which is run by Traverse Aravis – if you’re looking for a spot of alpine cycling you won’t do better. Quite a few of us had done the High Alps Challenge the previous year as well as a lot of friendly new faces, so we spent some time catching up, swapping stories, and lying about how little training had been done.

As we prepared to set off from our luxurious chalet accommodation, I was cheered by the fact that it was sunny. At least I won’t be cold, I thought.

I certainly wasn’t wrong, as the temperature swiftly proceeded past 30 degrees and never looked back. I thought about this moment the next day whilst lying in an Italian layby, in 38 degree heat, with the world spinning, trying not to be sick. I concluded that the world is a cruel and wicked place that turns cheerful thoughts to dust for its own childish amusement – and if you take one thing from this blog, it should be that.

We set off as a group, whizzing down to Flumet to start the first climb, the gentle 14km of Les Saisies. As opening climbs go, it’s quite a nice one – not too taxing, a few flat sections to catch your breath, and relatively short. An amuse bouche of a mountain.

Needless to say I was broken by the top.

After a quick break for bananas and weeping, we zipped down towards Beaufort to tackle the main course for the day – the Cormet de Roselend. At 21km, this one is a bit more of a beast. It’s steep, long, and you’re stuck in a forest for ages so you can’t even mumble gently to yourself about the pretty views and freak out passers by. The real kicker is a lake at about 15km, which looks an awful lot like the summit but is in fact a large, cruel joke leading up to another 7km of steepness. It was also blisteringly hot. You don’t really notice it at first, but all of a sudden you find yourself cycling at 6km/h and realise that despite 7 bottles of water, you’re currently on 0 wees for the day. It’s not a pleasant experience.

You’ll notice there are no photos thus far. In my defence, I was sulking so I didn’t take any.

All in all, not a fun day – although the evening was somewhat better. Not only were we served industrial quantities of chicken ft. pasta cooked in chicken fat – a surefire classic – but we were also treated to several hundred cows strolling down the high street, which was entertaining until they started charging at us. Fortunately there was a Frenchman on hand with a large stick to save us via the medium of flagrant animal cruelty, which was welcome if morally difficult.

Part 3: A day of two hills

After the warm up day, we got stuck int the main event. Day two ran from Seez in France, up the ironically named Col du Petit St. Bernard, down to Aosta in Italy, and up the accurately named Col du Grand St Bernard, finishing just past the Swiss border. Everyone was in good spirits, if a little daunted by a 116km day involving two 30km+ climbs.

It’s rare that I have cause to celebrate my cycling achievements, but I have to declare that I absolutely blasted* up the first climb. There is nothing ‘petit’ about the Petit St. Bernard – It’s 30km long with over 1,300m of elevation gain – but for some reason (possibly a deep physical trauma) I felt in good shape. I gave that hill every shred of energy I had. I pushed deep into my energy reserves, imagining myself as some kind of lightning bolt on wheels. Bradley Wiggins would have struggled to beat me, I was certain of it. And so it proved, as I made it up the climb an outstanding 25th out of 30 participants, many of whom were taking it easy anyway, one of whom was on a mountain bike with panniers and another of whom was on a tri bike with approximately 0 gears. It was without doubt the pinnacle of my cycling career.

*sort of

I felt like a pro, as evidenced by this photo, which I thought at the time caught me in a dashing pose, but actually makes me look as though I’m on day release. Why am I holding a small bag? Who knows.

Fit.

Fit.

Sadly, it sort of unraveled a bit from here.

After lunch, I got a bit over confident and tried to stay with the lead group on the run down into Italy. This was fine until my chain fell off – twice – and despite one of the group superstars dropping back to pull me back onto the pack, I am not cut out for 40km/h on the flat and was knackered by the bottom of the climb.

By the time we started, it was 38 degrees. One of the features of the Grand St Bernard is its consistent approach to shade. There is consistently no shade. It’s also 32km long and steeper than the petit version. After pushing on the first hill, then breaking myself and my bike on the flat, I promptly overheated.

I first noticed something was wrong when I started shivering – one of the less common reactions to warmth. I first noticed it was time to stop when my vision started blurring and the overwhelming urge to re-examine my lunch kicked in.

I eventually found a shaded layby to pull into and found another victim huddled there looking equally shell shocked. We decided that enough was enough and called for the support car. They gave us ice cream and put the air con on, so any regrets we had about stopping vanished quite quickly.

Everyone else somehow slogged it to the top – and that’s no mean feat. Even on its own it would be a tough day’s cycling, but on the back of a previous monster climb and in unbearable heat, it was a superhuman effort. Massive credit to everyone who made it.

We got the ice cream though.

We stayed overnight at the monastery on top of the mountain. It’s quite a picturesque little spot if you’re ever in the area!

Considerably easier in a car

Considerably easier in a car

Part 4: Lies, damned lies and average gradients

Having had considerably more rest than most others, I was well up for the final 140km day. We started with a leisurely 40km descent down into Switzerland, towards Martigny. There’s a very long section of open-sided tunnels on the way, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend trying to see how fast you can go whilst you’re in them, I did and it was brilliant. I felt a bit like Lewis Hamilton at Monaco – except a lot slower, wearing lycra and having to make F1 engine noises with my mouth.

The fun ended when we took a sharp left to Chamonix, up the Col de la Forclaz. This averages 8% incline, which in layman’s terms is a bastard, with the occasional 12% bit thrown in for fun. I made it up by muttering obscenities under my breath and, oddly, singing Jack Johnson songs. I don’t even like Jack Johnson, nor do I know many of the words to his songs.

Something something banana pancakes

Something something banana pancakes

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. Some highlights I do remember are as follows:

We saw an ibex. It looked well angry:

He will have you

He will have you

 

We did an off road section! A bloke called barrée kept blocking all the routes in the area, meaning we had to sneak down some closed roads. Many of these seemed to be homages to the wonders of gravel and fallen leaves, which obviously make for ideal descending.

The last climb was a killer. ‘Averaging’ 7%, it must have been closer to 20% in a lot of places, and after 110km I was definitely not in the mood for it. After a brief tantrum I got on with it, finished the climb, and then got caught in a storm of some kind.

As a mark of how far behind everyone else I was, I was the only one to get back to the chalet wet.

After a bonus climb back to the finish from Flumet, and 300km and 3 days later, it was finally done. Everyone was a mixture of relief, hunger, thrist and tiredness. A few Kronenbourgs and a monstrous bbq soon dealt with that, followed by a celebratory Genepi or three and a lot of laughs with the whole group. A great end to an eventful few days!

Overall it was a tough but rewarding trip. I might take a small break from stupid activities for a while, but knowing my easily led disposition I’ll have signed up for a sponsored bungee jump or similar by this time next week. Watch this space.

We were all cycling for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, so please take a minute or two to have a look at all the great work they do – and there’s a link to the donation page up top if you feel compelled to part with any cash (pretty please?).

A massive thanks to Michael, Marjolein, Sue, Matt, Cliff, Barry and Kate for looking after us so brilliantly for the whole trip and making it so much fun – and thanks to everyone else who took part for all the laughs, camaraderie and hopefully not ironic applause when I staggered in an hour after everyone else.

Same time next year??

UKIP song heralds hilarious new era of political broadcasts

Nigel Farage and his band of people who are only saying what everyone else is thinking would like everyone to know that they have an MP and a song and they’re going all the bloody way to Downing Street.

Well it works for Vladimir

Well it works for Vladimir

The party, with an average gender of man, and average skin colour of white and an average emotional state somewhere between drunk and angry, have grabbed headlines in the past week by overcoming all odds and gaining an MP in a constituency where their candidate was already the MP, but used to be in another party. If they were on a football team, they would be the equivalent of Santiago Vergini.

Just wanted an excuse to get that in, sorry.

To celebrate snaring approximately 0.2% of the seats in parliament, supporters of the new force in British politics immediately released a song with such classic pop themes as the work pension scheme, tax on the minimum wage and an old white bloke who supports a far right party singing in a Jamaican accent. I’m not going to link to it because it’s one of the more cringeworthy things I’ve ever forced myself to sit through, but suffice to say I thought it was a piss take for quite a long time.

UKIP are now of the opinion that it’ll get to number one, which should give you a fairly good idea of the kind of minds attracted to the organisation.

What they have done, I hope, is ushered in a new dawn of political broadcasts through the glorious medium of song. Whilst undeniably a flying pile of wank, it is still infinitely more watchable than any party political broadcast that has ever been created. For the uninitiated, they go like this:

Scene 1: Fade in – Person who is nothing like you: “I am just like you.”

Scene 2: Person visits old person or minority, talks about something abstract which they then shoehorn back to their party

Scene 3: Party leader says something, slow mo of leader with ‘normals’ to show that they’re down with real people

Scene 4: Smiles, music, fade out. VOTE FOR US.

I feel like these inane 4 minute wastes of airwaves could be jazzed up a bit if everybody went down the musical route. As a starter for 10, for any political PR types reading, I’ve come up with a verse or two for each of the big 3. I think these would go down a storm and also convey key party ideologies, so feel free to use them.

Conservatives – to the tune of You’re Beautiful by James Blunt – sung by David Cameron

My life is brilliant, my funds secure,
I saw a poor man,of that I’m sure.
He smiled at me in my Jaguar,
he was sitting in a van,
but I won’t lose no sleep on it, ’cause I’ve got a plan.
 
We’ll kill them all,
We’ll kill them all,
We’ll kill them all, it’s true.
I can’t stand folk, who are just flat broke,
And I don’t know what to do,
But I do know I don’t like you.
 

Labour – to the tune of Hello by Lionel Ritchie – sung by Ed Miliband

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?
What do you mean you don’t know who I am? I’m Ed Miliba…hello? Hello? 
Ed? Balls. They’ve hung up.
 

Lib Dems – to the tune of Help! by the Beatles – sung by Nick Clegg

Just the chorus, sung over and over again, maybe with a couple of sobs thrown in for good measure. 

Ants preparing for annual airborne assault

Ants across the UK are doubling in size and roaming the streets menacingly in the build up to their annual attempt to wipe humanity from the face of the earth.

The plot, if previous years are anything to go by, will involve large quantities of newly hench ants inexplicably growing wings overnight, taking to the air and careering drunkenly around until crashing headlong into the pint you were just taking a sip from. If pints are unattainable, then eyes, hair and the pavement are also acceptable targets.

Shit is about to get real.

Shit is about to get real.

 

The arthropods, usually better known for pro-monarchy views and refusal to travel in anything other than single file, are in fact vicious haters of all humanity ever since their image rights were stolen without consent in the middle-of-the-road family film Antz.

Whilst the ants have numbers and enthusiasm, their regimented lifestyle, which involves protecting the queen, picking up small odds and ends, protecting the queen, dismembering their own dead and protecting the queen, has led to a distinct lack of imagination in their planning process. The Annual Ant Airborne Apocalypse, or Ant Day, has followed exactly the same format for many hundreds of years, can be described as having only limited success – a total of 0 humans have been massacred in several centuries.

There are several flaws to the plan which renders it almost utterly useless. Firstly, the winged attack ants have a lifespan of approximately 24 hours, making a sustained attack somewhat problematic. They also have the co-ordination of a bowl of spaghetti, resulting in myriad deaths through shit flying.

Second, the intensive gym work and reliance on protein shakes that the ants use to bulk up before the big day has the same effect on them as it does on humans – it turns them into vacuous, knuckle-dragging bellends. Losing any sense of caution, they spill onto the streets in search of ‘banter with the lads and fanny’, only to be slaughtered in their thousands by passing feet.

Regardless, ant leaders are optimistic that past failures are no barrier to future success, and are of the opinion that yet another Ant Day will be precisely the last thing that humans are expecting.

A spokes-ant said: “We’re going to nail those fuckers this year. The one day a year where it rains flying ants will be the last thing they are expecting. And if it doesn’t work, our current plan is to try exactly the same thing again next year.

“It’s the last thing they’ll expect.”

New Year celebrations ‘somewhat premature’

As 2014 rumbles into its third consecutive day of being unfathomably awful, the wild celebrations and raised hopes of the nation are starting to look slightly misplaced.

Expectant Britons awoke bleary-eyed and possibly next to a stranger or farm animal sometime around tea-time on the 1st of January, certain that the financial worries, scandal and general dampness of 2013 were a thing of the past. Many were devastated to find that 2014 was possibly more shit than its predecessor; elation turned to embarrassment as roughly 99% of the population remembered sincerely believing that 2014 was going to be great, and telling this loudly and repeatedly to friends, loved ones and people they met on bridges just hours beforehand.

Probably caused by immigrants.

Probably caused by immigrants.

If the first three days of the new year are a good barometer of the rest of the year, and they almost definitely are, the UK is in for a metaphorical and in all likelihood literal shitstorm over the coming 362 days.

The first concern is the weather, which has cranked up a notch since midnight two days ago from ‘Biblical’ to ‘how does one construct an Ark?’ on the Beaufort scale. Dorset has gone from ‘quite waterlogged’ to ‘pretty much an extension of the sea’ on the Guardian’s how-flooded-is-my-county infographic, while in other parts of the UK the flood warnings have gone off the traditional Yellow-Amber-Red scale and into the little used ‘black’ warning, which is simply the word ‘REPENT’ written in blood on a wall.

In society, everyone is now even more skint than last year, ironically due to overspending on New Year celebrations. Hearteningly, BNP aubergine-in-chief Nick Griffin has been declared bankrupt in possibly the only positive news story of the year so far. He has also added some ironic cheer by announcing that he is writing a booklet on how to deal with debt – likely to be as useful as Accrington Stanley’s guide to winning the Champion’s League.

Back on the downside, every celebrity from the seventies is still a paedophile, your job is just as tedious as it was last year and if the Daily Mail is to be believed there are Romanians and Bulgarians stealing that job, as well as your car, home and spouse, as you read this.

In sport, the England cricket team continue to push the very limits of sporting ineptitude and poor decision-making, culminating in electing to send Michael Carberry out to bat with a potato masher, putting a blancmange in at number eight, and then bowling underarm to Brad Haddin.

Time will tell whether 2014 will carry out its threat to be a complete bastard of a year. If it is, there are already plans afoot to alter the traditional New Year’s celebrations across the country from a joyful, welcoming occasion to a sinister, threatening one. Fireworks and champagne will be replaced by hard looking bastards with clubs, muttering threats. Auld Lang Syne and ill-advised kisses will make way for battle speeches, manly fist bumps and three minutes to ‘get tooled up’. 2015 will of course be welcomed in a civil enough fashion, but it will know that the second it tries to dick us about we’re going to smash it’s fucking teeth in.

Met Office: Shit about to get real

The UK’s chief weather service has warned southern Britain that it’s in for a windy pounding on Sunday night as moderately gusty weather ambles lazily towards these shores.

The severity of the storm, currently named ‘St Jude’ for reasons best known to nobody and which make the impending doom sound like a nice slice of cake, is such that the Met Office have felt compelled to issue the dreaded ‘amber warning’ across large swathes of England and Wales.

It's probably going to be quite half-arsed

It’s probably going to be quite half-arsed

The Met Office warning system is a classically British affair: it has three levels of severity, two of which are a state of mind and another which contains needlessly vague direction. The current amber warning tells us to ‘be prepared’, taking the nation to the same level of readiness as the Scout Movement. It’s a step up from the less severe ‘be aware’ yellow warning, although quite what the difference is between the two is up for debate. It seems difficult to be aware of wind but not be prepared for wind – and studies have shown that mental acceptance of wind does not lessen the effect of wind.

Quite how much more prepared it is possible to be for wind and rain in a country which is a study in wind and rain is unclear; the best advice for avoiding flooding and storm damage would be to avoid building on floodplains and not use ropey roofing materials, in which case we’re several hundred years too late.

It would also be useful to not have a drainage system which somehow floods even in scorching sunshine, but alas.

In short, the official line is ‘good luck’.

However, if simply hoping for the best just doesn’t cut it for you, here is a short 5-point survival guide on how to bravely ride out a storm that any other country would barely notice:

  1. Buy a kite. Because you aren’t going to get better weather to pull off some sick stunts.
  2. Move your house closer to unstable trees. If one comes down on the property, you’ve got free days off work. If you don’t live near trees, scatter some B&Q wood around the front garden.
  3. Live in a first floor flat. The ground will be wet, anything above first will be blustery.
  4. Get a gun. You never know when you might need it, and you’ll look cool, especially if you also have a kite.
  5. Panic buy lemons. Because just once I’d like to see that happen.

Follow that plan, and everything will be fine. Probably.

And even if it isn’t, you’ll still have a fuck load of lemons. And a kite.