“Hit me baby one more time” – #CapeArgus2014 220km

Chapman's Peak Cape TownUndoubtedly the world’s most beautiful race, strung out along both coastlines of Cape Town, where Table Mountain serves up a breath taking view to the start of the mountain range running down to the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Argus Cycle race skirts along the eastern side of this range before turning back along some of the most spectacular views on the west coast.

Bays of white sand are lapped at by the blue sea, rugged rock faces rise above and plunge below the road encasing the rider in views so breath taking you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the reason you’re out of breath and not the fact that the steady climb up Chapman’s Peak is taking its toll. Especially when packed into the racing end of the event with a deadline to make it back before the last group starts on the road.

Double Argus

Essentially that was what a handful of riders were chasing – the opportunity to ride a double lap of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, a 110km timed ride on closed roads. Attracting the largest number of participants in the world, close to 35,000 start the ride in waves, thus needing over 3.5hrs to send everyone off. This was our deadline to be back at the start to take advantage of the closed roads and the chance to soak up the spectacular views a second time.

Garnering the nickname “Cape of Storms,” there’s a 50/50 chance of good weather on the day, something I was half dreading given we were in the throws of winter back in the UK and melting into the tarmac was not something I was keen on. Thankfully the weather gods delivered a 60km SE wind accompanied by a bearable 26 degree maximum, weather I could just about relate to, but more importantly a wind direction which benefited my race strategy perfectly.

Eddie MerckxAs spur of the moment decisions go, this has to be one of my top contenders. Surfing social media late one Tuesday evening, up pings an invite from a good friend in Cape Town to attend a charity function with Eddie Merckx on the same weekend as the Cape Argus, just 10 days away! “Let me sleep on it” I say without realising that the land of nod was not to be an option until I had investigated the possibility. At 2am I thought what the heck how often do you go to an event where Eddie Merckx is signing jerseys? I could hear Peter Kay’s voice in my head in one of his skits where he was shopping for holidays on TellyText (yes them were the days) “Booked it, packed it, fooked off”. So there I was booked to fly a week later with an entry to the Womans’ Elite Race and a pass to ride a second time.

Race training is not on the plan for this year – long, slow, steady with cake stops about sum up my efforts for this years training to race the 6,800km TransAm Bike Race across America. Fast and hard are about as alien as a Penny Farthing winning the Tour de France. All I needed was to hide in a fast group until the first big climb after which I would have a tailwind all the way to the finish (thus being grateful for the South Easter that was blowing on the day).

I am happy to say, the plan came together and while I was not in contention to place anywhere near the top of the womans’ race, I hammered out an average of 34kph to make it round on “Lap 1” in 3h13 (a PB), thus getting me back to the start-line for Lap 2. I can safely say I did not notice any scenery on Lap 1.


Picking up Amy who was struggling on her own having raced with me on Lap 1, we collected a goodie bag from my sister on route, which included my Contour camera and proceeded to do a two up TT into the headwind out to Cape Point. Amy was pedalling round to where she was staying and we were equally gratefully for being able to work together into the wind and of course to give a wheel to several riders trying to hide from the wind.

Now was the chance to absorb the views and to record some of the route and riders. Panning shots of the scenery as we cruised along the sea front, capturing riders in fancy dress or the sheer numbers going up some of the climbs. I was looking forward to showing off the Cape Argus in all its glory, showing the essence of the ride – where no matter what bike you’re on or what shape you’re in, everyone can ride the Cape Argus. What I hadn’t accounted for was the small blob of food which had adhered to the lens when I put it into my goodie bag.

So not being able to backup my claim to this being the most beautiful race in the world – you’ll just have to get out there and experience it for yourself.

My experience was topped off with ViP hospitality from Tsonga Sun, where I had checked my sister in as a guest and arrived to find her ensconced with all the lovely folk from Hotchillee, quaffing bubbly (as one should) and well and truly adopted as part of the family. Starting with Oxtail ravioli, I moved onto a dinner sized plate of salad before wolfing down a Fillet Mignon with risotto and finished up by punctuating the feeding frenzy with some little cake type things. Of course the heat had dehydrated me somewhat and the Pongratz (a great South African bubbly) did wonders to quench my thirst and numb the soreness in my legs. So a huge thanks to David Bellairs (the incredible organiser) for sorting my last minute, double entry with hospitality and to my wonderful sister Sam, who drops everything to run around making a trip back to the Cape truly worthwhile.

Ride stats:
Lap 1: 3h13
Lap 2: 4h15 (with a tea and cake stop)
Distance: 220km
Placing: 22nd womans’ elite race, 38/5800 woman, 4th in age group.
Total ride time on Garmin: 7h26
Strava QOM: Llandudno to Sea Point

Sam Weller’s day trip to Wochma 200km

20140204-194725.jpgWho Sam Weller is and why Wochma (a town in Estonia) is beyond me, but for my first and certainly not my last double century of the year, it was a corker of a ride.

Given the extreme weather of late and a forecast for lashing rain and howling winds on Saturday and lovely calm dry weather on Sunday, our 200km Audax was scheduled for Saturday – as one would expect.

Turning up to an Audax without mudguards is a bit like getting to work without your trousers – most definitely frowned upon. Peering down at the wheel attachments on the bike revealed a lack of eyelets for mudguards and the clip on ones I own didn’t fit. A last minute dash around Google pinned down a pair of Bontrager blades I could attach with duck-tape, zip ties and the use of the skewers. Bonus.

And a bonus it was given the weather and the amount of topsoil washed onto the roads – “Audaxlocross” more like it. Sadly for Liam, one of our party of three, who turned up mudguardless, made it four hours into the ride before the cold and wet eroded his cheerful demeanour. Looking at the mud strip up his back was licence to complain.

20140204-194809.jpgRiding east from Tewkesbury took us past much of what we would see all day: fields of water, roads of mud. My Garmin routing went Pete-Tong, so I conceded to following blindly with no sense of achieving the true Audax status of navigating off a sheet of paper or knowing where the check-points were. I was happy to just tuck in out the wind.

And wind there was. With my only fully-working set of wheels being a little too deep-sectioned for the wind, it was a day spent wresting with the handlebars and being blown across the Severn Bridge with one leg out – proper Belgian style – to keep me upright on the bike and road-side of the railings.

20140204-194756.jpgOnce over the Severn Bridge we were literally blown all the way home and rolled into the pub a good 10.5 hours after starting. As an opening deposit for 2014, it’s not a bad start. I’m recovered, I’m not sure the bike has – this weather is certainly taking it’s toll.

Thanks to Max and Liam for getting me round and Mark for organising a great ride. At £4.50 you can’t go wrong with an Audax.

20140204-194830.jpg

Kit review: Barmitts – no gloves for winter

The most important aspect of this test was the “do I look like a dork” section. Peaks on helmets and valve caps are big no no’s on the road bike – never substitute substance for style, I have been told. I’ve even had my peak cap and helmet straightened up for photos. The key part of my test was going to be the reaction I received from fellow discerning road cyclists.

Taking some big hunks of neoprene and sticking them over the hoods was probably going to get me a bit of ragging on the bike, which is starting to look less like a road bike with all the little bits and bobs I’m adding for the bikepacking races in 2014. The big outing of the Barmitts was on our annual Christmas ride, for which I dress up, I was going to look a bit odd anyway, may as well finish off the look.

20131227-125653.jpg
Neoprene hood covers for cycling

The Barmitts slip over the bar-ends and cover the hoods allowing you to ride glove-free to about 5-6 degrees (not scientifically tested). The air warms up within the Barmitts as you pedal along, keeping the ambient temperature quiet comfortable. This did change with the cross wind, but it seemed to only affect the areas closer to the wrist, with the ends of the fingers remaining quite toasty. The really big plus for me was when it rained and given how much rain we’ve had, there’s been ample chance to test this aspect. My hands remained completely dry in the lashing rain, I was riding with cashmere lined leather gloves (as one does) at the time and they remained completely dry and my hands were pretty warm. I eventually took off the gloves as the temperatures got up and my hands were starting to sweat a little.

The Barmitts look like mini fairings on the handlebars, thus one would expect some impact from the wind. Into a headwind they work very well, however in a gusting sidewind bike handling became a little sketchy. As the “fairing” effect is directly attached to the front wheel, gusts made the front of the bike very twitchy, changing my weight distribution to bring more of it onto the front wheel helped control this a little better. I preferred using them in the country, where as City riding felt a little too sketchy to manage around London traffic and the changes in wind direction from buildings and cars. (As a very light rider I generally shift sideways in the wind, so preferred to take off the Barmitts off in the 50mph gusts on the commute home).

20131227-125722.jpg
Keeping hands warm and dry

One of the other factors to consider and should be fairly obvious – you get to ride in one position only – on the hoods. Initially I found the shape of the Barmitt restricted where my handholds sat on the hoods, a little adjusting of the Barmitt position gave me a more comfortable hold. If you spend most of your time on the hoods, this won’t be a problem, if your hoods are an uncomfortable position to sit in for extended periods, you’re going to have a problem. (I’d probably be questioning your flexibility and core strength and not blame the Barmitts). I spend most of my time on the hoods, so loved these little additions to ride comfort.

Lastly the Dork-Effect. I was fully braced for some ragging on the ride, however this did not come, the overwhelming response was, “what a great idea”. Even to the point where I was rolling the bike out of the post-ride pub and a patron commented on “what a great idea”.

In conclusion, where you need to get those long winter rides in, these Barmitts are absolutely fantastic.

Pros:
Warm, dry hands – a huge plus on long winter training rides
Thinner gloves – better control on the levers
No numb, painful fingertips – you can actually feel the levers

Cons:
Sketchy in cross winds – takes a bit of getting used to
Hand positions restricted – probably will alert you to bad bike setup or lack of core strength fairly quickly

Cost: around £45 (2013 price)

My plea fell on deaf ears – here it is again – no one get married in 2015. Please!

You may not remember, I sent out a plea “please no one else get married in the first six months of next year.” My plea fell on deaf ears it seems. So it’s back to the drawing board for next years cycling plans as one of our longest standing friends, I saw this chap born, well not literally… But needless to say it is a wedding I can’t miss and thus puts a little pressure on my plans to do the World Cycle Race.

4,233km Across US. Solo, unsupported
4,233km Across US. Solo, unsupported

Thats not too much of a problem as the world will still be there and as I had a few back up plans (once bitten…), these are kicking in for next year. So they will be:
Trans Am Bike Race on 7 June 2014 : 4,233miles a solo unsupported race across America, including the Rockies, gulp*
Raid Pyrenean: Mid July (TBC)
Transcontinental Race: 9 August 2014 : 2000miles, London to Istanbul+

* I have an incentive to get back for the TdF so some big miles will need to be pedalled – also not to be confused with the RAAM which is only 3,000miles and your kit, navigation and food production line follows in a car.
+ the planning is done for this as it was my missed race for this year (more weddings!)

It also means I can do some of the Spring Classics like Paris- Roubaix wooo hooo

I’ll be blogging about these in more detail and start giving an insight into what solo, unsupported really means, looking at some of the kit decisions and just what goes into the toiletry bag on a bikepacking trip.

Here to prove, you don’t need the kitchen sink on a trip.

Mulled wine maketh a Cross rider

On a road bike there is no real packing order, everyone rides where ever in the pack, well bar the few slackers who hide at the back – yes we know you’re there 😉

This all changes when you go off-road – not ala Lance towards the end of the 2003 TdF stage into Gap – proper off-road, knobbly tires and shuddering brakes (on a cross bike are there any other types?).

On our regular cross or MTB excursions I am the least skilled off-road, so naturally I am just ridden off the front and thus lurk at the back. Well lurk would mean I was in someway “wheelsucking” the bike in front, not quiet true. There is normally a large gap between me and the cluster of lights moving away from me rapidly, leaving my patch of the forest lit only by my lights as opposed to the flood lights of a football pitch.

The year end brings around my annual Merry Crossmas ride: mulled wine precedes our off-road excursion and we make it back to devour the chilli con carne. This year I found an old Santa dress I had from a few years back and donned it for the ride. On the long drag up to the Telegraph Pub (from the river to Putney Heath) a voice from behind goes “no one rides past Santa’s wheel”. So there I am on a 17kg old Kona (which I love to bits) even though it weighs twice what everyone else is riding, if I dared look back I imagine everyone would be doing track stands keeping to the pace I was going.

I’m not sure if it was the dutch courage that is the mulled wine, the bonus of being Santa, but I found myself ahead of the hunting pack as we hit the proper off-road sections, bombing it along merrily. Blow me over, you can see every little twig on the ground with the benefit of group lighting, unlike my “oh sh**, there’s a tree in the way” screech to a holt.

Now hear in lies the problem. Next week I ride again without the prior fortification of mulled wine, nor the Courageous Cape of Santa, how can I claim I am useless off-road again when I somehow showed I can do it? Just how did I do it?

20131130-100625.jpg

Are @use_exposure lights worth £300 #readme before you buy a light

At £300 a pop, Exposure’s top lights are not so light on the pocket, but are they worth the hefty price tag? Many product reviews come out with a few weeks or months of testing and then get a few stars next to their product.

My Exposure Toro (the big daddy of lighting up the path ahead) has been strapped to the front of my bike for five years. Being somewhat safety conscious, and these little LEDs earn a lot of respect on the road, my lights run every day whether its light or dark – one can’t earn enough respect on our busy roads. They’re also accustomed to riding in rain, shine, sleet or snow, somewhere in me there must be a little Belgian trying to get out.

They get charged up once a week, twice if we are doing night-cross in winter. In the 5 years of running them down and charging them up, I’ve never noticed (touches wood) a decline in the hours they burn or the quality of light they shed.

On an Epic night ride of 3 hours around Richmond Park at 11pm in the lashing rain (I blame the little Belgian) I stopped to sort out a puncture having bunny hopped some branches, the light seemed to falter – perhaps it’s not Belgian enough. After that it seemed to work intermittently on the “front end” but still ran the back light, then the front end gave up. I was gutted, thinking there goes £300.

I had no receipt, no proof of ownership, nor did I think the warrantee would extend after a year or two at most. Customer Service at Exposure were fantastic, they said to send it in as it was most likely a lose wire. I got an email when my lights arrived and one to say it was being sent back to me. When I scrolled down the page, there was no charge.

So if you are wondering whether the £300 price tag is worth it, I would say hell yeah! And for these reasons:
5 years on one set of batteries
Solid metal construction, all sealed up very nicely, probably indestructable, but not tested this.
Waterproof as ducks you-know-what (no this excludes swimming)
Plug in bright back light – powers off one unit
USB rechargeable
Solid metal attachment to the bike, never broken one yet, despite the light moving from one bike to another frequently. Nor has the light ever fallen off, even when I have.
Gets huge respect on the road (careful not to blind oncoming cars – angle them down in traffic)

Before you cough at the price, add up the money you’ll have spent on lights, batteries, broken mountings, £300 is not bad for 5 years of dedicated service – and counting.

20131128-122544.jpg

Why can no one else see the elephant in the room? #bloodycyclists

While we’re all squeezed into the corners of the room, blaming each other while a great, giant elephant is staring us right in the eyes, but no one wants to tackle the elephant issue, because that will look into the core of who we have become as a society.

The elephant we are staring at is the road culture, and to an extent the everyday culture we endure in the UK, or certainly London. Rules of the road tend be much the same in most countries, bar are few differences, yet in each country it is the culture of road-use which dictates how people drive. For instance, in South Africa you daren’t use your indicators on a motorway to change lanes because the car coming up from behind will speed up to cut you off. Come to England and using your indicators generally gives you the right of way where as in Italy it’s a gesticulating hand out of a window that settles the right of way. Standing at a roundabout observing the chaotic use of lanes in the UK you will notice that an indicating car can switch across three lanes of traffic to take an exit which would result in a metal crunching encounter in France.

So what is our culture, but firstly who am I to comment? I grew up in several countries and to survive on the roads in various countries the best way forward was to observe how things worked and then get in the flow as quickly as possible. I pay road tax or lets rephrase this, my taxes go towards the roads (as do yours), I have a driving license (with no points) and I am insured to £10 million on the road. My only form of transport is a bicycle and perhaps the occasional train or bus journey. I’ve commuted to work everyday by bike for the past 15 years and touch wood, make it there and back safely.

Before we start, lets all get thinking on the same page:
1. No one group of road user is more saintly than the other, in each group you have the same types:
– the aggressive, get ahead of everyone, stuff the consequences
– the polite, lets everyone in, doesn’t seem to be on a time schedule, frustrating for those above
– the daydreaming / distracted
– the law abiding
– the rule breakers or law breakers

2. Everyones tax goes to pay for the roads (if you dispute this – go and do a bit of research – the “I Pay Road Tax” website is insightful)

3. We all believe we are right and should defend our corner

Taking a medical view of things, we are not dealing with a common cold, we have a full blown virus which is just getting worse. More aggression on the roads, more road users, more cars being squeezed through limited space but 20% faster thanks to Boris’ traffic smoothing. Take your minds back to the Swine Flu epidemic a few years back. When someone sneezed on the tube before then, no one flinched, when Swine Flu broke out adverts started appearing saying, use and bin your tissues, people were too scared to sneeze in case they got started down or worse, told off. Everyone was stocking up on antivirals. Sadly vulnerable people and those at risk succumbed to the virus.

Can you see a parallel with the culture on our roads? I certainly can. We have reached epidemic proportions, our roads are crammed, we’re all in a hurray and if someone sneezes we hone in on them like a swarm of killer bees.

What are the real causes of our road issues. Again, taking a clinical observation:
Tailgating / driving really close to one and other
Rushing to get past a slower road user who could impede our fast progression to a queue of traffic or a red light
3. The pass and pray method – we squeeze past really close or through a gap we’re not sure we can make, praying we hit nothing
3. The culture of allowing cars to filter in has died (this existing when I first came to the UK, it blew me away come from a place where people cut you up)
4. We view everyone else as an obstacle on our journey and not someone with a family who might miss them if they die.

This last point I observe with dread and punctuate my thought with a “thank f##k thats was a near miss and not a fatality”. I could probably say this is a regular form of punctuation, in fact several times on a daily commute.

We’ve had flu (pair with car dominated roads) for centuries (decades), why the sudden outbreak of panic. The type of deadly culture has shifted species, where bird flu for birds was fine, bird flu for humans is deadly. The same goes for our roads. Where passing another car very closely meant if we misjudged it, the most likely problem would be a lost wing mirror, or a crunched back end. Tragic when people die, no one blamed the person who died until all the facts were know.

For cyclists and pedestrians, there is NO margin for error, no wing mirror replacement service, no easy “take a panel off and replace it with another”. When the Swine Flu hits the vulnerable, it can be deadly. To prevent deaths, vaccines are developed and given to the vulnerable. Do we victimise them, blaming them for being vulnerable? No because we are a civilised nation…

… Until we get on the road.

Our epidemic needs an antibiotic not a box of tissues. We should stop blaming the vulnerable who possibly was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or needed that little extra space or time to navigate where they needed to get to. With traffic lights in a city no one gets anywhere any faster than the lights that stop us. And yes, I get as annoyed as you do when someone jumps a red light, speeds or uses a mobile in their car. We don’t have the capacity for more cars on roads or more people in tubes, taking bicycles off the road will not get you to work any quicker, quite the contrary.

Our laws are not a deterrent, a £30 fine is barely an evening out, when the police aren’t there we just revert to our old habits. The fine is just an inconvenience not a behaviour changing methodology. We apply “zero tolerance” policing for a week just to show something is being done, after the week is done, everyone can go back to how it was.

To change a culture or stamp out an epidemic, strong medication is needed. Would a cyclist jump a red light if they knew their bike would be confiscated for the day and it would cost them £100 to get it back from the pound? It’s a real pain in the butt to walk to work in your cleats, plus you’re now going to be late. What do you tell your boss “sorry I broke the law, they took my bike, I had to walk”? What if they crushed your bike after 3 RLJ offences? Would you do it again? How about when driving your car? If your insurance paid out, no questions asked if you hit a more vulnerable road user. Would you take extra care when speeding up to a cyclist or a pedestrian crossing?

We need a change in our road culture and as humans we don’t seem to be able to self regulate, so isn’t it time those in charge did something that, rather than making themselves popular, made a real difference. It’s it time they made decisions for themselves rather than palming off the responsibility to an expensive review board who then make the tough, unpopular decision – “well it was not us, that what the review board recommended”?

Grow some balls Britain, the Swines are winning.

Never too old to cycle #space4cycling

Yesterdays commute home was special. Pedalling along Fulham road towards Parson Green, I had moved to the outside of the cars as there is a left turn the cars take. Many of the cars don’t indicate, nor look for cyclists on their inside before turning, so I take the safer, outside option. Yesterday was different. As I approached the turn there was a car indicating turn, with a cyclist coming along the inside. The car waited for the cyclist, who was not going very fast, to pass before turning.

I was hoping the lights ahead would change so I could chat the cyclist, which they did. I stopped in the ASL, leaving some space for the other cyclist, thankfully he pulled up next to me. I am always chatting to cyclists, so my usual “how are you today”, was greeted with a smile. The gentlemen was clearly not a young man, he was dressed in a tan coloured suit and was wearing a helmet. When I asked him how long he had been cycling, he said twenty years. Now this is the part I was not expecting, to which he added. “I am 83”. Incredible. He went on to tell me he cycles about 2 hours a day between all his business meetings.

What really surprised me was how the cars gave him the space he needed on the road and were patient to wait for him to pass. Long may this become the norm for us all. I was just happy to be able to chat to him and to know you are never too old to ride your bike.

He has been voted my Rider of the Week. Just sorry I couldn’t take a photo for the blog.

Three Weddings and a Bike

Either I’m making a large deposit in the CarbonNeutral Bank or I am completely nuts. Yes I know most of you agree with the latter, dont worry I still love you even if you do.

In my restless quest for finding some new challenges and having already done a few large rides, mostly in groups following someone else and with an expert to plan it all, I Decided to put myself a little outside my comfort zone, ok way out of my comfort zone.

Two things I am completely mystified by: navigating and logistics. So instead of signing up for my usual organised trips, I am going DIY, riding solo and unsupported.

They say things come in threes, this year it’s weddings and as I needed some practice navigating and planning, I decided to get there by bike, carrying all (well almost all) of my stuff in an extended saddle bag – no panniers, just some lightweight adventure kit.

Wedding One was a doddle – Ascot in April – well almost a doddle because it was close by (a neat little 2 hour pedal at dusk to get to the pub) but as our winter extended into June, I had to throw in a few extra bits to keep me warm. Amazingly my wedding outfit and civvies for the weekend made it into the saddlebag and top tube bag. I confess to being a little cold at the wedding, lacking a winter coat, but all in all I survived.

Wedding Two is in North Devon and I am pedalling down on Thursday. I will sneak a bag including some bubbly into a friends car but will still be riding with overnight kit on the bike. Thankfully a client has a pre-existing route down there, so it’s a case of plug it into the Garmin and off I go.

Wedding Three is in France. Dax to be precise and it lies just south of Bordeaux, a neat little 800km ride from Le Havre. I have two ferries booked, that is it. I plan on camping, taking a map and heading south. I’ve been told if I keep the sea on my left I should be fine. This comes from someone who has never ridden with me, so I shall delight in regaling stories of ending up somewhere unexpected and possibly nowhere near the sea. I also know France has these hidden gems of the most incredible restaurants in the middle of nowhere, so I am keen to stubble on a few of them.

After a weekend spent upgrading the cross bike, a little test ride revealed that my mechanics seem to have held up. Thank you Youtube.

I will keep you all posted on how my ride is going and if I can work out how to link my site to the tracking beacon I will have with me, you can follow me live and chuckle when I get lost. Wish me luck.

Decifering Dementia – not a cycling related post #dementiaweek

Children grow up fast and the changes are so apparent when you don’t see them often. I noticed the same with my Mum, she lives in Cape Town, I live in London and with the cost of flying to a popular holiday destination the visits were always few and far between.

Being a “guest” in my own home meant Mum shipped me from pillar to post and would pick me up when I forgot the puncture repair kit on roads where thorns are a common problem.

We noticed small changes and put it down to “getting old” and I am sure many parents are the same, not wanting to worry children when they get lost or can’t remember where they are going.

On our said journey to pick me up at the side of the road, north of the beautiful Cape Town harbour, where the views of table mountain are breath taking, we journeyed along the only straight road back towards town. It was a road we had driven often. Mum got lost and couldn’t remember where she was.

These were the early warning signs of a disease that has robbed our Mum of her precious contents and left just the shell. Although we thought she was denying the fact, she was taking steps to secure her future and taking the burden off us as her children. Selling her house, finding a flat with a six monthly renewable lease, putting her name down at a care home and lastly, the most precious gift of all, a living will.

Unable to communicate with us now (I say us, when actually it is my youngest sister who sees her everyday) making the right decision is not left to individual preferences, but rather on defining how best to give Mum her choice of treatment. I cannot stress how grateful I am that Mum had the foresight to do this for us and only wish I could thank her.

As her condition worsened some of her decisions seemed irrational or lacking in the full truth, it would have been easy to get angry, especially not knowing she couldn’t remember what she had said or agreed to. Don’t get angry, start observing with a rational brain.

Seeing these early warning signs is clue that soon you’ll have to step up to the plate. Seeing the late warning signs may need the help of an impartial third party. We chose Mum’s doctor as the person to break the news to her that it was time to move into the care home. As the sole person looking out for Mum, my younger sister has done an amazing job and I was grateful this was a burden she didn’t have to carry.

It is Dementia Week here in the UK and I wanted to highlight the value of getting your parents to define their choice of care and the specifics around what that care involves. Mum, for instance, has chosen no outside assistance and we were very fortunate to find a care home who shares her wishes.

We can sleep happy knowing she is cared for in the manner she chose.