Well as it’s high time I got this blog and my podcast updated I can’t have a better reason to do so than commemorate the 4th annual Spinners Arms sponsored cycle ride for Cancer Research and both the blog and the podcast are dedicated to this.

As well as dedicating this and the podcast to all my fellow riders I must say a huge, Huge, HUGE



to everyone who sponsored me. I raised £175 (I’m still waiting for £15 you know who you are!) and I’ve learned from a visit to the Spinners and this why a bang up update today 12-8-11 that so far £3483 pounds has been raised so with my £160 I handed in today that’s £3643 and there’s still 30 riders yet to hand in their cash so with luck and a fair wind seven grand may well be in sight.

All the usual links and details of the artists on the podcast are detailed below but first here’s an account of the ride itself. I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had for some time even though the weather could have been better. Just how bad it was you’ll understand in a moment but an indication is given in the above picture and from now on I’ll always think of it as


It all all began on a wonderfully warm and sunny summer Saturday morning as some sixty odd riders and their bicycle gathered outside the Spinners Arms at Cummersdale. Last minutes adjustments and tunings being made to a large assortment of bikes in varying degrees of newness and sophistication. Here I must send out a huge thank you to Scott daly who loaned me a beautiful bike that was the sweetest thing to ride and made the whole event easy, particularly the gel seat which took the worst ache and removed it from the whole scenario at the very start.

So after instructions from Alison Davis and the nice lady from Cancer Research whose name I forget we set off on the first leg down into Carlisle and its marvellous traffic. I was once told by a seasoned motorist that driving in Carlisle was worse than London.

In London they don’t take any notice of other road users, in Carlisle they just drive at you.”

That unfortunately proved true as the ride suffered it’s first casualty before we’d gone too far due to a driver just not giving a fellow cyclist a little bit of consideration, thankfully he didn’t suffer any  serious injuries and was able to continue.

Ben Delivo of the freewheelin’ Delivo brothers lost his chain as he arrived at Bridge Street and bravely walked his bike to Scotby Cycles for repair intending to catch up with the rest of the party later (and he did).

The weather was still good as we sailed (much later on that will be used as literal description of the the ride and not  poetic as here) round the Castle past Bitts Park and up over the Eden to glide down through Rickerby Park, Rickerby itself and then Linstock. (Which recalls to mind that fine actor Sir Rickerby Linstock star of so many triumphs of the Stage, who indeed can forget when he gave us his Bottom at Stratford.) Finally crossing over the M6 and finishing this, the longest stage of the ride at The Stag at Crosby on Eden.


Replenished by water and bananas we set off on stage two Little Corby to Great Corby (which appears from looking at Google Earth to be smaller than it’s “little” namesake, perhaps it was named because the original settlers just thought it was that much better.) Cruising in what was to be the last of the sunshine, an easy idyllic ride past well kept tidy houses and an immaculate golf course. Birdsong ringing on high and I was feeling great, happy and content that it was a sheer pleasure and I was doing something worthwhile possibly the most worthwhile thing I’d done for years.

Then came the ominous warning from the stewards at Little as they directed us to Great…

…”You’ve got the big hill coming up.”

To be fair it’s the only really serious hill on the route (in this direction anyway) but it’s not too long though quite steep and given that there were no prizes for cycling every inch of the way, I wimped out and got off and pushed it uphill to be rewarded by the sight of the next checkpoint at the very top The Corby Bridge Inn.

More water and bananas consumed there and sandwiches too, and of course being a public house some of the more health conscious riders felt duty bound to exercise their drinking arms quite extensively.

You’ll perhaps notice the beginning of a theme here.

It was here we noticed the dark and ominous cloud drifting somewhere northwest of us, it looked like it was going to miss us and we could continue in sunny bliss but it wasn’t long until we found out how wrong we were for shortly after crossing the impressive Wetheral railway viaduct the heavens began to open. Slowly at first, like holding the door ajar slightly to let the cat out and keep the dog in but then thinking “Oh the hell with it!” and letting all the dogs out along with the cats, rabbits, pot bellied pig and the wolf who you’d tried to keep from the door but then let it inside to starve with you as it was great with the kids. So by the time reached the next stop of The Lowther Arms at Cumwhinton we’d got properly wet.

Let me make it clear that quite few of the riders were liberally pouring ale down their throats at every stop so along with the rain they were in effect just a collection of cells swimming in an aqueous solution and I’m not sure how they managed to keep upright on a bike. Here of course special mention must be made of one of the rides heroes, Big Neil Ferguson (who Alain Landlord tells me was one of the initiators of the ride)


This year he was sponsored not to drink on the way round after consuming 14 pints during the ride last year. He didn’t and got round quicker than I did and made up for it that night. So there’s at least three reasons to raise a glass to a really nice fella who is as they say “As sound as a pound”

The next section from Cumwhinton to Durdar was as close to the dictionary definition of hell as you can get, that is if hell is seen as a cold wet bleak landscape lashed by rain, scoured by wind and populated by maniacal motorists who when seeing somebody wearing a T shirt saying Cancer Research feel the need to blast their horns and call out in the manner of a New York ruffian “ Get off the &$%!!@# road!” or as happened to me on this stretch  to actually play  a game of Grand Theft Auto for real knocking the cyclist from his velocipede to whoops and cussing amain. This particular idiot who I imagine probably makes a “BRRMMM BRRRMMMM BRRMM” sound as he drives not only nearly took me out but also Tina and Harold as well.


All respect and power to Harold seventy odd and can ride better stronger and faster than men half his age.

By this time the sky was darkened to an ominous Tolkienesque  roiling mass as I pedalling like buggery to get as far from Mordor as possible, deep and booming thunderclaps rattling like Brian Blessed belching in an echo chamber while the ghost of Oliver Reed loudly farts next to him. Lightning flashed across the sky like the Dark Lord with prostate trouble trying to piss electricity into the Solway Firth and missing bowl entirely.

The ever darkening sky sending sets of staccato bursts of plasma on the road to Durdar where the pub is dry…


As we cycle to Durdar

Where the pub is dry

Three for Karen and Alison sheltered from the sky

Seven for the Sponsors sitting at home

Nine for the riders doomed never to dry

One bell to ring as they’re drenched to the bone

One bell to ring them

One bell to chime them

One bell to ding a ling ling

As the deluge slowly drowns them

As we cycle to Durdar

Where the pub is dry

After crossing the M6 (via bridge dumkopf and the rain was so bad at this point that a whale had actually got itself stranded on the motorway) I was up a in something of a quandary as I’d kept track of the unfamiliar route by always keeping some other riders in sight ahead of me so I wasn’t sure which way to go, luckily I’ve got a good sense of direction and set of in the direction of Durdar (luckily I was right though it could have gone so easily and badly wrong) and the worst section of road which was a long long drag uphill and in the pouring rain was thoroughly miserable but also provided for me the best moment as Joe White dressed in full clown costume raced past me with a cheery “Come on Wizardmarra!” and the image of his feet in enormous clowns shoes pedalling furiously still makes me laugh.

Next stop The Black Lion at Durdar I’ll say no more about it other than I would have thought when a hostelry, inn or tavern suddenly gets a crowd of sixty odd folk arriving at their threshold and a goodly amount of them wanting ale. One would have thought that they would be welcomed with open arms and cash registers. Not so at the Black Lion as the miserable buggers were closing and gave what can only be likened to the eponymous Lion showing us it’s arse.

Nearly done and spinning into Dalston the rain began to stop…

…no it didn’t it carried on pissing down and then through down more as we reached The Bridge End Inn, a really brilliant pub run by friendly people. By this point I was just wanting it all to be over so after a brief rest and a cough and drag on to the next stop (after the shortest stage in between) at The Blue Bell and it was here that I succumbed to having a swift half, discovering as I did that when your body is chittered with cold, your clothes soaked with rain and your gentlemen parts shrunken to the size of peanuts and a jelly worm the last thing you want is ice cold beer inside your body and I nearly went into hypothermic shock.

So I bit the bullet and set off on the last leg, along the lovely smooth riding cycle path that runs between Dalston and Carlisle and along this section the rain began to come down harder faster and crueller than at any other time that day. I cursed myself for not bringing a snorkel after a brief detour when I didn’t realise I should not  have gone over the bridge but soon after that it was the final slog uphill into Cummersdale  (and yeah, I got off and pushed as there were no prizes for staying on the bike) I proudly dripped and splashed into The Spinners Arms. It would also have been Karen’s arms too but I was too wet for a hug but the kiss she gave me calling me “her superhero” made the whole thing worthwhile. That and the fact that it was despite the rain one of the very best days of my life and I raised nearly £200, the whole event will have raised three or four thousand for Cancer Research.

Not bad eh.

Capture 1 - Copy

A big warm hug of thanks and respect and love to Alison Davies who got it all together along with the support crew for sandwiches bananas and so much more.


I’ve just found out how to put a player for the podcasts on here so here is the current one.





Track listings with links to the artists website (where possible)


Now I’m no longer involved with Solfest and The Drystone Stage there is in another’s hands I’m no longer restricting the music to acts only appearing on that stage and so I’m taking the opportunity to put out some of the other acts from the amazingly large collection of music I’ve had submitted to me that didn’t make it onto that stage (for a variety of reasons) and I feel deserve a hearing to a wider audience.

Coming out on Saturday 27th August 2011 the next edition of

Wizardmarras Drystone Wireless Show

will be

not the

and will feature a “fantasy line up” of who might have been the Drystone Stage this year if I’d still been doing it.

Here also is my brand new podcast it’s a fantasy serial read by me and I aim to get an instalment out a month and it’s called…


…and relates the adventures of the singing barbarian Jib Longwilly and his partner Swanky Morris in one corner of the multiverse and in another of Jabberlique and Smiggle Banjaxx the interdimensional repair men. The first instalment is the begining of Book 1, THE ETERNAL SIDEKICK the next instalment will be out by the end of this month.


I’m still grieving somewhat for the end of my association with Solfest, events causing my resignation still leave a bad taste in my mouth and I feel that the future of what was the most wonderful festival is in jeopardy but at the same time I feel whether the festival is a huge success or a dismal train wreck of a failure I can hold my head up and say that I’m proud to have been a part of it’s past and equally proud that I have nothing to do with the 2011 event. But I have nothing but the best wishes for Ben Durkan, Gerard Irving, Tosh, Karen, JT, Matt, Simon T and everybody who is working hard against tough circumstances.

The Wizards Pot

An archive of the life and rantings of The Wizardmarra. The Best Storyteller In The World.


About Alan Whittaker

A storyteller like no other. Weaving traditional storytelling with madcap posing and stand up comedy riffing. Taking the listener from here to there and back again at break neck speed; with panache and a fine sense of the ridiculous.For more information about Alan, read his biography.

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