Saturday, 29 May 2010

4m paVeD bUrg 2 cOBbLd bOrGo aCrOsS sNoWy pASs

With my mind racing wondering what might be, the whole process of heading up the pass was totally in the moment. We had been advised to start by going up the old route as there was less traffic. Great! The catch was the road was a near vertical climb and without the new Simplon road's sweeping curves we just headed straight up. It was a slow process taken in stages...legs giving way...stop...catch breath...wipe the sweat out of my eyes...drink...wobble back up the road. Eventually we met up with the new road. We found keeping our line straight with an over loaded bike nigh on impossible, really scary when there's loads of cars whizzing by. So yes, there was a lot of wobbling. About 3k from the top we had to pass through a series of tunnels. We tried to get out of it by following a track which went over the top of the first tunnel. That didn't work. Cycling through was risky because the road was very narrow with lots of blind bends, so we resorted to pushing our bikes through these damp hell holes with the amplified roar of traffic booming in our ears. The last tunnel was full of road works and traffic lights to regulate the alternate flow of traffic. Of course these were timed for fast cars, not slow bikes. So we had to create our own diversion up workmen's tunnels full of machinery, mud and collapsed walls. It was and experience I wouldn't want to repeat, but in a warped way I felt proud of doing it.

By the time we got to the top we had cycled above the snow line. I felt it was a bit of an anti-climax as there was no brass bands or welcoming party, just a nod from somebody in a car and an austere monument of an eagle looking down the valley.


The fricking freezing 30k decent was great. All I had to do was sit and watch the Alps fly by with a big smile on my face, oh and brake constantly all the way down into Italy.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

LoVeLy LaVEy LeS bAiNs wiV iTs nuDe SauNas tHeRmaL pOoLs & hAmMams

Woke up hearing the tippitiptap of rain on the tent canvass. It had been raining all night but we were hoping that the weather would clear by the morning. It hadn't. Decamping in the rain is not that pleasant, but at least it's quick. Discomfort makes us really efficient. Pack everything from inside the tent (generally we scatter all around), jump out and pull the pegs rapidly cleaning them of any mud (we are quite house proud like that), extract and fold the alloy poles, shake the tent to get at least some of the water off, then swiftly load the bikes and leave.

On our way out we noticed nobody was at reception. Nobody was there the night before and, since we had been badly stung at the campsite in Lausanne, we made ourselves scarce. Only a couple of km down the road we relaxed.

Our first target was Lavey les Bains, famous for its thermal waters and public baths. We had found a flyer about this place the night before and although we noticed the high prices, we decided we could do with a little relaxation and regeneration before big Simplon Pass (oh, yes, we had also discovered that the pass over the Great St. Bernard was closed for another 3 days, and we were not going to wait around for it to open).

We received a few bemused looks arriving at the baths bedraggled, in our wet weather gear and dripping. We did not exactly look like the rest of the punters around us. These were mainly blazer, white trouser and proper shoes wearing gentlemen and ladies, elder and well off, some staying at the swanky hotel next door.

After we piled our luggage high behind the reception desk, we were gently shooed toward the entrance of the baths. These were probably the best public baths I had ever experienced. I waited for Isla to finish changing in the whale-song vibrational pool (yeah, tell me about it). We then moved to the Oriental section into a beautiful and large hammam (maybe 8m across, coated in mosaic tiles). Of course we spent a little bit of time in the outdoor pool with its mushroom fountain, massage jets and spiral water treadmill, but really it wasn't the bubbles we were mostly interested in, as much as the Nordic area. This had a three saunas: one mild and aroma-therapeutic (smelled funny), one straight Finnish and one naturist. The last was the biggest and hottest; we stayed till we melted. The plunge pool was crystal clear and ice cold. I loved submerging my body inch by inch then staying in till I felt my heart slow right down to a loud, imperative and base beat.

The ladies at reception smiled as we floated towards the exit. Outside the sun was shining.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

aLL weLL, eNjoYn LauSaNne & LaKe gEneVa

It seems just yesterday we descended la Furieuse (and what a furious ride it was) and arrived in Salins les Bains. There we saw the museum of salt, the first real touristy thing we have done. It's a great building, with huge metal pans used to evaporate the brine pumped from the guts of the earth to make salt. There we learnt there are 3 ways of obtaining salt: by mining [rock salt], by natural evaporation [a lot of sea salt] or by evaporation through fire [sea water or brine]. Funnily enough the day after we did our first real mountain all the way to the top of the “Route des Sapins” and learnt there is a fourth way of making salt. Because we were sweating so much, both of our shirts were in fact encrusted with the white stuff.

Mouthe to Lausanne over the Col de Landoz-Neuve (1260m). This was our highest point yet and from there we freewheeled into Switzerland. Long beautiful descent all the way down to the Swiss plateau. At some point, while we were still high up above it there was a break in the tree line and the new country opened in front of us. In the distance we had our first glimpse of the Alps. They looked humongous, imposing , invalicable even from so far away. It was quite a moment of realization for me, having joked about them for a while. The task is not to be taken lightly.

We cycled towards Lake Geneva and arrived in Lausanne, what a city! Obviously lots of money has been ploughed into providing the most well equipped and landscaped public spaces I’ve ever seen, all blending into the still calm of the lake.

There are areas for any activity one might fancy, from sailing to archery, volleyball courts, skate ramps, quiet meadows on the edge of the lake, music stages, beaches, an arboretum, bars and more things I can remember. Definitely, as Isla called it, a 'Body Beautiful' place. We camped within the park, at the tune of 32CHF (£20 compared to £10 of French campsites), Yikes!

Life looks good here and as we continue to pedal around the lake the following day we pass through yet more beautiful (maybe too beautiful) villages. The day has been full of contrasts, from affluent lakeside living to the industrial Rhône Valley crammed with grape vines and factories. Not until you look up do you see the beauty of the Aaaaaaalps. Oh yes, the Alps, surely we can’t cycle over these (head spinning) huge chunks of iced capped rock.

After two days of cycling up the Rhône, feeling more and more intimidated by these mountains, we camped in Brig at the base of the Simplon Pass (what a misleading name). My main fear is traffic. The physical and mental challenge is totally up to me, but the crazy driving that goes on is out of my control, trust trust trust.

Monday, 24 May 2010

aT tiMes LiFe jUsT sHoWeRs uS wiV giFts

Yesterday started with me struggling to drag myself out of bed. Feeling really low in energy and doubtful I could do much cycling, we went on to climb 600m. We climbed all day through green fragrant forests, the air was incredible and I felt strong. Our target was a village called Mouthe in the Haut Jura region. I kept expecting to see Julie Andrew twirling over the meadows, instead we met a group of bike tourers on Pino Tandems. The bikes are a strange mix of recumbent at the front and normal upright position at the back, a really fun and sociable way of riding. This gathering of ‘Pino Lovers’ had been prearranged by the website founders Marc and Regis. They were such a generous bunch and treated us to a three-course meal, shower and the much needed use of their washing machine. We all free camped just outside Mouthe in a valley of dandelions that opened with the morning sun turning the whole valley yellow, tucking themselves back up at night. We were literally encrusted with pollen by the time we left. I am feeling very blessed and happy to be doing what we’re doing.

What a glorious couple of days. The weather has been fantastic: warm and breezy with just the right amount of clouds to be splendidly picturesque. We are now very close to the border with Switzerland. Getting here was pretty superlative. We did a fair bit of uphill from Champagnole to Mouthe, but climbing is only tough at the beginning and on a change of incline. From descending to ascending is a real big hit, legs burn and it seems impossible to carry on up. But soon enough one gets into a groove and the lactic acid reabsorbs, life becomes much easier. I shift gears from time to time and switch from spinning to thrashing for a wee bit. Somehow the change in rhythm seems to keep the legs going. I'm not sure this is the accepted way for cyclists, but at the moment it feels right. On a long climb it is easy to mentally accept the task at hand and keep going. Slowly, slowly, metre by metre, up we go. The challenge is to accept that after the ridge one has just climbed, there is always going to be another. Higher, at times steeper, invariably there. Without a doubt we are carrying way too much luggage around. Once in Genova we will empty our bags and do a full reappraisal of what we need. It certainly is a fine line between comfort and weight and luckily we have a good opportunity to ditch all that we don't need.

While having a refreshing beer at the auberge “l'Oeil du Boeuf” we spotted two guys on a really funny sort of tandem. Of course we went to have a chat and, after introducing ourselves, we were promptly invited to go and camp with them [Mark and Regis] and a few other friends. We had a moment hesitation because we needed to do some washing, shower and since we intended to have a day of rest, set up camp for the morrow. Mark offered all of the facilities of his home, just 50m away at the end of the village. We accepted, and what a good choice that was.

Mark and Regis amongst other things run a review website. Mainly they test winter gear aimed at Nordic Skiing, but both are also into cycling. Their knowledge of kit was impressive and Mark even sorted us with a clip we had lost from one of the Ortlieb panniers. It was a pleasure dining and spending time with them and the rest of the gang.

The place they had chosen for the night is situated on Mouthe's plateau just outside the source of the river Doubs. The landscape is gentle around us, low hills framed by higher ridges, sapins and épicéa la Furieuse(Norway spruces and silver firs) on the steeper faces and a few lichen covered shrubs dotted on the lower hills. The grass is short, not cut but grazed, and the entire landscape is covered in bright dent de leon, a vast expanse of yellow undulating in a gentle breeze. We spent the whole of a lazy day here, having breakfast with everybody then seeing them leave, two by two at different points of the morning and afternoon.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Today's Menu

2 Croissants
4 Coffees
1 Mini Quiche
1 Local Pastry
2 Nectarines
2 Pears
½ litre Tropical Smoothie
6 Honey Waffles
Several Handfuls of Nuts and Raisins
1 litre of Home-Made Isotonic Drink
2 Pain au Raisins
1 block of Cheese (actually 2 x ½ block)
¼ Baguette
2 packs of Ravioli + 1 jar of Sauce
1 pack of Salad + Tomatoes + Fennel
¾ litre of Beer

Thursday, 20 May 2010


Long day pedalling. Woke up early hit the road by 9a.m. Had a crap coffee in a dingy bar, then went looking for another. In Blaisy Bas we found a patisserie which we cleaned out of the pain au raisins and pain au chocloat it had left (6).. breakfast in France can really be a pleasure. Soon after we stopped at a hotel with a proper coffee machine and had a good hit there while spending some time planning the day route. We realized we will not make Italy by Sunday, it might even be Wed/Thur depending on how we fare on the Alps.

Spending a day pushing it can be quite enjoyable, and caffeine helps lots. Of course having a ton of sweet pastry inside you is also a good boost for blood sugars and morale. Got me a sweet tooth in France which I think I'll keep to the end of the trip.

The landscape is very pleasing at the moment and the roads interesting. One of the nicest aspects of this country (and great help to a healthy state of mind) is that traffic is very limited in this country and drivers generally polite. We both feel safe on the road.

We are also enjoying the free camping side of our life. Because of the large spaces it's still very easy to find a spot for the night. In fact the only real reason to pay for a campsite at the moment is for the hot showers which, at the tune of 10.50€ a pop and very mild heat, seem hardly worth it. In the future we will be looking out for leisure centres as much as campsites. For 5€ each we can get a sauna and then find a free patch of grass somewhere else. Lateral thinking on the road.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Flavigny sur Ozerain

We tend to alternate free camping with nights at campsites purely to have a shower. After staying in a great campsite in Venarey les Laumes last night, we are now free camping next to a vast wheat field. We are exhausted and today our mood has been flat. In contrast to our route, we’ve just climbed some of our steepest and longest hills, one of which took us to a stunning old village called Flavigny sur Ozerain. Just outside the ‘Anis de Flavigny’ sweet factory which makes this place famous, our bikes collided (well, it was more like I rode straight into Isla's arse and tumbled). As we picked ourselves off the ground thinking we had gone unnoticed we looked up. Ladies in yellow hairnets, busy making sweets in the olde kind o way were now trying to stifle laughs.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Camping Sauvage

The Fosse Dionne in Tonnerre

Last night we free camped in broadleaf woodland just outside of a town called Tonnerre. We pitched the tent in one of the many green tracks cross-hatched through it. This idyllic track was full of wild strawberry and pungent lily of the valley flowers (their smell always reminds me of Daisy, my dad’s mum). Oh, and mozzies which didn’t make themselves known until we sat down to eat. I had a night of drifting in and out of dreams, being woken up by a stag’s strange bark and my scratching lots. I don’t know what it is about Tonnerre mozzies but they managed to infect every single one of my fingers. So no bike gloves for a week, just swollen purple fingers… joy!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Already addicted to this way of getting from patisserie to patisserie

Yesterday afternoon was a beautiful ride through undulating agricultural land.

Hills behave like waves and come in three: you climb one and at the top you can see the next two. Slowly, then hurl down, cold wind freezing sweat and booming into your ears, elation, speed, excitement, smile. You sweep into the valley and crank away on 14, so as not to lose momentum; crank till you can crank no more and shift down. And from 50kmh, in a heartbeat you are down to 8, sometimes 5, sweating panting spinning, keeping the rhythm.

Cycling is music and all around us has rhythm. Pedalling and breathing, the hum of the wheels on the different surfaces (eventually we will have a name for all the various types of tarmac, just like Smilla’s snow). Trucks roar past us, planes buzz far above us and, over perfectly combed fields, crop spraying tractors with gracious skeleton wings attempt to take off from the rounded ridges like impossible steel birds. Seas of odorous yellow part to let us through: we are submerged by the pulse. Smells transport us to distant places, olfactory memories of youth on volcanic island. Grasshoppers sing. The world around us is a synaesthetic orchestra: tinted harmonies stream towards us caressing sensitive skins and we fall into the open embrace of living.

After 34km of vast landscapes of green, yellow and yes! blue we coasted into Aix en Othe into an immaculate campsite.

This was full of friendly oldies having a good time and in the late afternoon there was a small goodbye party. A dozen or so white haired revellers skipped with their zimmer frames into a large caravan cum awning and drank and laughed till the small hours of the evening (around 7.30, maybe even 7.45 p.m.).

Today we woke up to a relaxing beautiful morning. Strolled into town (without the bikes) to eat almond croissants and drink silly amounts of coffee. We hung out in the bar long enough to charge up our camera batteries, sketch and fill out our diaries. Even a huge screen pumping out dodgy europop right behind me didn’t manage to shake my serenity.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Hermé - Aix en Othe

The fishermen did show up, just before 4 a.m. they started setting up, chatting and faffering. It was very noisy around us until we decided to let go of the paranoia of the bicycles getting nicked (everything else lives inside the tent) and popped some ear plugs in. The next morning we were again so taken by the beautiful spot that we soon forgot the restless night. The fishermen, a father with his 3 sons and their dog, were also a nice bunch so it was difficult to hold any grudge.

We set out around 11 and made quick progress to Nogent sur Seine. Here we had one of the best meals to date: we bought tomatoes, fresh bread, a good slice of compté, hand churned butter and strawberries and scoffed it all on the steps of the XV century église Saint-Laurent.

First day of sunshine after 2-3 wet days. The wind is still chilly, but with the heat of the sun it feels refreshing rather than unpleasant.

Friday, 14 May 2010

EvEniN oNd ShOrEs oFd LaKe oF miRror

Woke up at 7.30 and tried to reduce our decamping time. It still took 3 hours to leave. That was skipping breakfast but showering and doing a minimum of bicycle maintenance.

After the biggest slice of flan and tarte (these things are reaching gargantuan sizes) and a bit of bad humoured faffery the cycle computer fell on the floor. This was from less than 1 metre height but the silly thing still stopped working. I'm going to try and fix it tomorrow but I'm not hopeful. If not fixable it will be £40 down the drain (and it was reduced from £80). I feel like a bad review is coming its way: so expensive and totally unable to function in the real world? I don't think so!

Moving always changes things (or maybe it is us changing while moving through things?). It is easy to see how addicted one can become to the cycling itself. While pedalling all is fine, worries dissipate and the world opens up. The roads at the moment are great: undulating straights, swooping downhills, big horizons. All is joy to behold and ride through.

After a 24km start we spiralled our descent into medieval Provins, a town of turrets and cobbles. It was so nice just to stay put in a place and explore.

We got lost in photography: from the castle to side views of the ramparts, from windowpanes and doors to crackling paint on walls. From huge architecture to the tiniest detail, digicam makes us trigger-happy.

Tonight we are free camping by a lake. Camping sauvage in French, and by God do we feel savage with our chair kits and multifuel stove. The location is idyllic, but we are expecting a lot of fishermen to show up silly early in the morning. This is a carp night fishing hotspot apparently. We'll see.

Now I’m at my most content listening to an amazing array of birds, taking my gaze far off over the lake. And I hate to say it but our exped chair kits are really rather lovely.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Varinfroy - La Ferté Gaucher

Isla: The last couple of days we've travelled through a patchwork of crops, broadbean, wheat and rapeseed. Long undulating roads stretching for miles ahead of us with swallows and swifts teasing me as I crawl up yet another hill. Yep, today was all about hills. As soon as we left our free camp site in a local fella's orchard we hit our first and it's been non-stop ever since.

Pietro: Started on a hill, finished on a hill. Isla did an extra hill when she got lost. Overall a fair bit of climbing and freewheeling (touched 63.9 km/h). Pleasant surprise in Jouarre where a local antiques & tat market was in full swing and the town happened to be beautiful too.

Wandering around town we peered into a crumbling old church with bright stained glass and found ourselves listening to four ladies singing in perfect harmony. Then we got carried away with the flow of people through the market where there were loads of stalls selling all sorts of tat which I would normally love to lay my hands on.. ah the bliss of not being able to carry any extra weight.

We pushed hard in the latter part of the day, while in the morning it still takes us hours to get going (3 hours today). Tomorrow we will try not losing time having breakfast and maybe even doing the washing up in the evening.

Cycling feels great: no aches or pains. The bikes feel nice too. A couple of days ago I tensioned my chain: a 5 minute operation, although a little more maintenance is still needed. Temperatures are still quite low, around the 7-8°C, and the difference between climbing and descending very marked. Both of us are still cycling with merino tops on, getting sweaty on the ascents and well frozen on the way down. I wonder what an Italian mama would think of all this?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

YsRtdaY d SwEetSt gOodbYe 1 cuD eVer wiSh 4

Beautiful memories of departure: the excitement, the sadness, the great love felt for and from the people around us. A fantastic Colombian start thanks to the boys at Ground then off, hit the road.

Getting used to a fully loaded tourer is tough; there is a definite wobble coming from the front of my bike (Isla's seems better) and fast downhills at the moment feel like trying to rein in a bronco.. or a hippo with Parkinson's. Exhilarating, on the side of wild.

The panniers are fixed, no more popping out of the racks. Of course it was a 5 minutes operation, but it was only going to happen after we travelled a little with the new bags. I'm happy they were on mine rather than Isla's bike for the beginning of the trip. In Dieppe they promptly got fixed and haven't given us problems ever since (other than a lost hook insert many days later).

Boarding the ferry was rife with emotions. Almost not making it through the gates then cycling on the creaky ramps into the steel mouth of the behemoth. Full of yearning and beauty to see so many loved ones on the harbour's edge: running, waving, blowing kisses. Our hearts tore with joy and longing. Ships must be the ultimate in romantic departures. Time stretches. Slowly, almost painfully slowly people get smaller and smaller and further and further and further and further till you can look no more..

That day we received so many messages of encouragement and support, thank you all who have written to us, your messages will keep us warm on the more difficult days.

And thanks also to Dannyboy. The Avenue Verte was a smooth introduction to cycling in France. Flat, no car traffic and with an abundant array of patisseries along the way, the hunt for the best flan has indeed begun. This disused rail line was converted to a very pleasant cycle route, which will eventually stretch from London to Paris. Many of the very cute old stations along the way have been turned into homes. Some, so very beautiful are for sale. ½ hour drive on either side of a 4 hour ferry ride seems a very reasonable distance for a gorgeous country house. Same as driving to Somerset, only much cheaper and without the hassle of driving… Any takers?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

or The Click-Stand Debacle

Of all the really important things to think about.. Click-Stands are a brilliant bit of kit. They are used to prop up your bicycle when stationary and are an elegant and simple solution to the design flaws of bike kick-stands, namely the weight they need to be to support a bike from a low center of gravity and their inability to cope with uneven ground.

Because Isla and I liked these lightweight beauties so much, we decided to order some from the States where their inventor Tom Nostrant makes them.

I decided to post a transcript of our communications as Tom is such a nice guy and our whole Click-Stand adventure might be of use to (and amuse too) some..


From: Pietro Pavese 
To: Tom Nostrant
Subject: Non USA Clickstand Order
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 10:44:40 +0100

Hello Tom,

my girlfriend and I are going to be cycling from Brighton, UK to Japan and we have been told the Click-Stand is a necessary bit of equipment for our extended tour. Kris told us about it in the first place and he should know since he is using one for a round-the-worlder!

Anyway, I would like to order 2 Click-Stand Max for our bikes.

Here are the dimensions:

Height of your bike: "contact point" to ground (in inches): 24
Did you measure straight to the ground with your bike upright?: Yes, straight down with bike vertical, not slanted.
Cradle Size: typically top tube diameter (in inches): 1 1/8 (but brake and shifter cables run underneath the tube and add about 1/4 inch to the bottom.. Do we need a bigger diameter cradle?)

Would you like this made in 5 segments?: No
Do you have bar-end shifters?: No
Would you like 3 extra Brake-Bands? (3 are already included).: No
What Colour?: Black

My PayPal email address is

Also, we are leaving on May the 8th.. Do you think the stands will be here on time? If not, you could send them to my momma in Italy, since we are going to go via her house on our way East.

Anyway, here is our address:

Isla & Pietro

good try
but no prize! 
Hove BN3 1EH
East Sussex
United Kingdom

Thank you



From: Tom Nostrant  
To: Pietro Pavese  
Subject: RE: Non USA Clickstand Order
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 07:49:36 -0700 (15:49 BST)

Hi Pietro,

That is a wonderful undertaking. I will enter your order and send a PayPal invoice ASAP. I would like to help out with the cost, so the order confirmation and the invoice will differ. I can have the Click-Stands in the mail by Monday April 19th. That leaves 2 1/2 weeks for it to arrive. Most often it takes a week. I will let you know when they ship. Will you be posting about your journey on your blog?

Cheers, and good luck,



From: Pietro Pavese
To: Tom Nostrant
Subject: RE: Non USA Clickstand Order
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2010 21:28:11 +0100

Hi Tom,

great, 2 1/2 weeks should be plenty enough and thank you for the helping out with the costs.

Indeed we will be posting on a blog, you can find it at (or click on "my girlfriend and I" on my last mail ;-). At the moment is still a bit sparce, but I should add a few thoughts soon. Kriss' blog is also worth a look at

Thank you for your wonderful product, we'll e-mail you some photos of its use in some remote locations.


********************************** Uh Oh, Volcano!

From: Tom Nostrant 
Pietro Pavese
Subject: Click-Stand
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 16:11:39 -0700 (Tue, 00:11 BST)

Hi Pietro,

I just mailed your Click-Stands. Now I'm wondering about the flight disruptions into the UK. I have my fingers crossed. Keep me posted.




From: Pietro Pavese 
To: Tom Nostrant
Subject: Re: Click-Stand
Date: Tue, 20 Apr 2010 22:10:47 +0100


apparently flights should resume tonight, so hopefully the Click-Stands should arrive on time. I'll let you know when they are here

Thanks again


********************************** This is where it starts getting funny

From: Pietro Pavese 
To: Tom Nostrant
Subject: Re: Order Shipping Notice
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2010 12:46:44 +0100


the Click-Stands have arrived. I really like them, manufacture quality, weight, packaging.

Unfortunately I made a major mistake. I have no idea how this happened as I measured everything twice, three times even. Then, by the time I got to my computer and typed the order I completely cocked up and wrote the wrong height for the bikes. They are 29 inches, not 24. Dunno if this was a typo or a momentary lapse of reason, but it happened. I was wondering if you could send us two extra segments to make up for the height difference. Of course I will pay all expenses to get them to us. The best place where to send them would be at my mom's in Italy at this point as we are leaving in 1 week and I doubt the segments would make it on time.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Best Regards,

Foolish Pietro

********************************** The mystery revealed

From: Pietro Pavese 
To: Tom Nostrant
Subject: Re: Order Shipping Notice
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2010 13:48:17 +0100


this one might make you laugh:

It looks like I took a measurement with a measuring stick which belonged to Isla's dad (a cabinet maker). I have now learned that this beautiful vintage object has the peculiarity of displaying the Japanese Shakkan-hō units of measure opposite the metric side. Being used to the metric system (I'm Italian of origin) I looked at the scale opposite and assumed it was displaying inches.

I know, how silly of me to not realize. The Japanese "sun" (寸) is exactly 3.03cm, fairly close to the 2.54cm of an inch to an eye not expecting some funny units. I guess I must have assumed that since 1 inch equals around 3cm the scale looked about right. Foolish me, the end measurement was out by a good 4.5 inches...

So really, what I needed was a Click-Stand long 72.7 metric cm or 28 5/8 imperial/US inches or 24 Shakkan-hō sun (also equivalent to 21.8 Chinese Imperial cun, 34.9 Thai nieu, or 2.357e-17 parsecs). Maybe you should direct any other foolhardy customer of yours to this site (

Best regards,

a bemused if slightly befuddled Pietro


From: Tom Nostrant 
Pietro Pavese
Subject: RE: Order Shipping Notice
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2010 07:13:30 -0700 (15:13 BST)

Hi Befuddled Pietro,

I know how to make you feel better. You are not the first to be fooled by the same ruler. A surveyor from Australia, who measures for a living, received a short Click-Stand because he measured in Chinese Cuns. The real culprit is my not having metrics on my site. I will calculate what length an additional piece would have to be to fix your Click-Stands. If that wouldn't make them too goofy I will send that and new bungee cord. As punishment you will have to untie the cradles and feet and retie them. That would not be too difficult, but does promote swearing. If adding a different length fifth piece would make the stands look too goofy I will send eight new, and longer segments. You still get to untie and retie.

Do let me know your mother' name and address, and when you will be there. All of this will be worked out in the end. I have been looking in on your blog, this must be very exciting.




From: Pietro Pavese 
To: Tom Nostrant

Subject: RE: Order Shipping Notice
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2010 22:07:23 +0100

Tom,after having had a look at the Click-Stands we've got, I think an extra 5 5/8 imperial/US inch section (talking about the black exposed bit, the whole length of the section being 7 5/8 inch) should be enough to prolong the stand to its optimal size (actually 1 inch too long, but I don't think that should be too much of a problem?). My momma's address is:

Paola Frezza Pavese
xxx xxxxxx xxxx 
16124 Genova

To add to the general hilarity of the whole situation: although I am a tree surgeon by training, to raise funds for this trip I spent the whole of the last year working as a surveyor. I think this famous ruler we are all using is something passed on from surveyor to surveyor in an endless cycle of ridicule. Only by making yourselves look silly, tut us our elders, you can truly learn about the spice of life ;-)

Also, isn't it ironic that I should use a Japanese measuring stick, when the mythical destination for our trip is indeed the land of the rising sun?

Anyway, to recap: in order to make our Click-Stands complete we could do with 2(two) sections of 143mm length (5 5/8 inches) (Black bit) [[[[or 194mm (7 5/8 inch) full length]]]]. If you send me an invoice I will immediately pay you through Pay-Pal. Thank you very much for your time and understanding.

Best Regards,

humbled Pietro