Wednesday, December 7, 2011

le skippy

Bicycling Australia Feb/Mar 1994

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sweeping leaves on a windy day

I love the colour, the sound, the smell of India. It is an incredible place of immense diversity and depth. There is a part of my brain that comes alive when I am in India. My senses heighten, my mind races. I feel breathless. It is wonderful to be back.
Sunday. A day of travel. A flight from Singapore to Mumbai. Runway problems in Mumbai and a flight delayed. A quick lunch with Ramesh and his family. Hello. Goodbye. A flight from Mumbai to Nagpur. A flight delayed. I meet again with our driver, Ramsing. We do not understand each other but we smile and hug. A human bond re-established. We understand each other. We drive to Amravati. Deft handling: man and machine one and the same whilst hurtling through the cacophony of traffic that so typifies India. Ramsing is a magician. At Amravati I meet up with Dilip and the Australian contingent of the team regroups. Dinner at 11pm. We sleep in the house of Avinash.
Monday. Up at 0430 and we gather the three young interns that will join us on the camp. This is India yet I am still amazed how much stuff can fit in one vehicle. Avinash, Dilip, myself, those three interns, driver and assistant. Plus bags and gear. For now, I feel thankful that the team is only half that of last year. A small team where no-one is superfluous and we will have to work hard to get through the cases. This is India. Where things are done at the last minute. And plans often change. Where making do and compromise is a way of life. We drive to to the Mahatma Gandhi Tribal Hospital in the Melghat region of central India. We are greeted by Ashish and Kavita. We unpack, have lunch, then start the clinic. We identify what we can do within the constraints of this small hospital. We finish later than expected. The villagers wait a long time.
Tuesday. The anaesthetic team had arrived overnight from Nagpur. By India’s frenetic timetable I had gone to bed too early. No doubt there was much for them to catch up on. These are Dilip’s friends and colleagues and they join the camp because Dilip is here. I remember Bapat from last year. Relaxed, experienced, capable and overweight. She radiates a comforting reassurance. She brings 3 junior anaesthetists with her. We start work at 8am. We have a lot to get through but the start is slow. The start is always slow. And frustrating. The oxygen cylinder is empty. The couplings for the replacement cylinders don’t fit. Things are not ready. I watch and wait for activity to show signs of effect. The first case gets underway just before 9am. By midday we have completed three cases. Then the calvary arrives from Nagpur. Dilip’s good friend and fellow plastic surgeon, Shailesh, who I know from the camp last year. And two orthopaedic surgeons, Makaranda Dhopavkar and Abhinav. The pods are coming for the first time. And they come with their equipment. The theatres hum with activity. And good work gets done.
Wednesday. The cock crows as the dawn breaks. But India has already awakened. Today is more of the same. A hearty breakfast: Indian fare typical for this area, always a variety of dishes, all vegetarian. A gradual build up of activity. Either theatres are getting more organised or I have accommodated. Activity peaks by midday. Then things grind to a halt as the anaesthetists prepare to leave. As does Shailesh and the orthopods. By 2pm they are on their way back to Nagpur. We have lunch and use this time to visit Ravi in his home village. Dilip, Avinash and Ravi have all worked in this small village. They have a deep attachment to this area. Dilip went on to train as a general surgeon and then a plastic surgeon with further training in the UK and Australia. Avinash started his physician training but gave this up and started Prayas. Theirs is a complicated story. Ravi stayed in the village. He still lives in the house the villagers built for him a quarter century ago. I meet Ravi’s wife, Smita. She is more talkative this time. “I meet you last year. You were tien then” . “A team?” . “No” . “Teen?” . “No, no” . “Thin?” . “Yes, yes. You were tien then. You are now fat.” We have dinner with Ravi, Smita and their adopted daughter, Swati. They have two sons - one manages their farm nearby, another studies to enter medicine. Ramsing joins us. I sit listening to their conversion on a swing chair made of rough iron and wood, worn smooth over time. I feel at home in a house and country that is not mine. I do not eat much.
Thursday. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Vijay has arrived overnight from Nagpur. Confident and capable he juggles two patients, a revision parotidectomy under a general anaesthetic and a post-burn contracture under local anaesthetic and sedation. I had forgotten how much of the work is post-burn contractures. How often they require skin grafting. How menial I find the task. How my skill sets are woefully inadequate for this camp. How frustrating the language barrier can be when you have a job to do. How I hate disorganisation. How much I like things my way. How I am not, by nature, a team player.  Before midday the anaesthetic team from Akola arrives: Nitin and Sharayu. Vijay has played his part in keeping the theatres running. He returns to Nagpur. His father is unwell. Parikshit arrives as Vijay leaves. Like a younger Shailesh, he too is plastic surgeon hailing from Nagpur. He brings with him his reliable electrocautery machine and his assistant, Digambar. Unqualified but young, skilled and efficient like the pretty nurse assistant that had earlier arrived with Bapar. They are effective. The theatres hum with activity. And good work gets done. We finish late.
Friday. Our efforts for this year are at an end. Ashish tells me we have done 54 surgical cases. We did 56 last year. But the cases were bigger this year and Dilip is satisfied. For some people we have made a difference.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Laser dreaming

A date once told me: “You may want but you can’t have.” Recalling that these were the very same words my mother propelled at me some 30 years earlier I received the admonition with a mixture of bemusement and frustration. But accepting that there are certain limitations to what we want and what we can have is how a grown up negotiates the constraints of a civilised society (sure, the barriers may be a little more permeable if one travels in the upper echelons of the social structure and is in possession of particularly deep pockets and good connections - just ask Silvio Berlusconi).


The Cinelli team in the 1980s 

What’s under the paint via

As many collectors, enthusiasts, Cinelli groupies & other such purveyors and consumers of iconic bicyclonostalgiomania would be aware, Bondo’s making a comeback in 2012. Now the troll has resigned himself to the fact that he will never own a Cinelli Laser. Partly because he was never really that enamoured by them in his youth (see my previous post), and now that his interest has been piqued (and quite possibly because of this - the troll is really that shallow) the Lasers have become simply become too expensive and difficult to find. And a limited edition of 21 Laser Nostra’s at €7,500 for just the frame and fork ain’t gonna change anything.

Aside from the fact that they have already all sold out. 

Bondo’s back. There’s more here than fillet-brazed Columbus Spirit tubing.
Sure, the construction may leave some scratching their heads in an era of monocoque carbon fibre framesets but for many this is the epitome of Italian cycling elegance.

Elegant yes... um... a squared fork crown may harken back to them old days but what on earth is going on with that headset?

But there are many ways to join steel tubes together, even if they don’t have quite the same aerodynamic flare. Under all that Bondo is probably something that probably looks a little like this:

Although when the finishing work gets to this level then you might as well paint straight over it like so:

Mark Nobilette’s fillet-brazed frame at the 2009 NAHBS (from the troll’s collection of bicycle photos ripped from the internet - apologies to the rightful owner)

Of course one can also use lugs, work on them a little, and fillet braze them just for good measure.

Exemplary work from Peter Johnson 
(the troll’s all-time favourite sequence of naked bicycle photos and very much in the "you may want but can't have" league)

Any reader of this blog that has, by a keystroke of misfortune, ended back here would by now have realised that this here is a medium for reposting other people’s bicycle pictures, not to mention ideas, articles, and any girlie photos that are 1. free, 2. readily available, 3. passes censorship from the troll’s 70 year old mother. Leaving aside his constitutional (and thereby unimpeachable) laziness the troll does have an excuse on this occasion: he is in transit in Singapore whilst on his way back to India. If you want an original photo then this is all he’s got:

...As the troll sits comfortably cosseted in the sterile sameness of the Meritus Club Lounge scratching his nether regions, he reads with certain detachment about the insouciance of various governments to the planned damming of the Mekong River amongst other worldly problems all of which seem so distant from his immediate environment. A casual look out the window reveals a giant durian...Mmm, time for breakfast...

In the immediate environment sits outlets for Zegna, Hermes, Burberry, Bvlgari, Canali, Prada... all waiting patiently for the well-endowed (in every sense of the word) consumer to walk in. Unfortunately the troll is not well-endowed (in any sense of the word) but happily these names mean as much to a troll as monogrammed handbags and red soles on fashion shoes. Instead he ambles off to the Mustafa Centre (think of a cross between Harrods and Walmart with an Indian-Chinese flavour and you’ve just about got it) as this place, located in Little India no less, simply has everything. 
But the troll is drawn to shiny objects. And the Mustafa Centre sells very many shiny things. Like wrist watches. And although the ebay troll already owns a watch, and the parting of troll and coin is an excruciating experience for all involved, on this occasion he simply could not help himself. 

$16 Target watch - no shiny bling-bling happening here.

At Mustafa’s, you may want and you shall have.

And looking at ebay (the giant Mustafa Centre in the sky), reveals a bewildering variety of wrist watches available for consumption. At the top end of the game sits this little wonder:

Patek Philippe ref 5339 with minute repeater & tourbillon (don’t even ask how much)

Sure there are watches with a greater number of complications (a tourbillon, although a remarkable feat of engineering, is technically not a complication) and are more elaborate to boot. But this watch has just enough to say it all: 

Class - refinement - money - status. 

And, like the humble quartz watch, it even does a good job of telling the time.
Mechanical wrist watches have everything that would appeal to an ebay troll: a massive collector/ enthusiast base, an obscene proliferation of educational if opinionated forums, plenty of glam labels that appeal to the masses yet scorned by the knowledgeable enthusiast, jaw-dropping prices paid by aforementioned enthusiast for outdated/ superceded/ obsolete items that don’t work half as well as the newer stuff, and, of course, lots of moving bits that by necessity have to work together synchronously. Not to mention, plenty of shiny bling-bling. 
And to mark the passage of time by means of circuitous motion has an certain undeniable resonance.

IWC Ingenieur 3227-01. Not quite as obvious as a Rolex, Patek Philippe, or an A.Lange & Sohne 

Limited production estimated at 8,000 pieces (2005-2009) - not by choice, but by virtue of a unrealistic price tag and subsequent lack of consumer interest via 

The controversial calibre 80110 - a heavily modified ETA 7750 or a true in-house movement?

Obligatory photo with bike via 

Now should you be able to find an IWC Ingenieur 3227-01 then expect to pay upwards of $5,000 for a used piece. That’s an awful lot of coin for a watch with one basic complication. Not to mention service costs of upwards of $500 every 5 years. And then there’s the heft of carrying a 200g watch and bracelet. Not good for a small-wristed, stodgy and scrooge-like troll.

Cinelli Lasers, obsolete bicycle technology, fancy wrist watches (and for others, possibly monogrammed handbags and red soles on fashion shoes). At a certain level there appear to be many plausible reasons why you may want, but you simply can’t have. 

Thank goodness we do not always respond to reason. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tiramisu in the land of Sashimi

Nihon Jitensha ShinkĊkai stamp of approval 

1989 Campagnolo meets NJS standardization

No better. No worse. Just right.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

1980s Cinelli Cinetica