Tuesday, 27 January 2015

In Leicester...watching Celebrity Big Brother!

...yes, I'm in Leicester. Not very exotic when you consider some of the other places I've been to, but next on the agenda is Morocco. Marrakech to be precise. But that's later. Right now I'm sitting in a budget hotel watching Celebrity Big Brother on Channel Five. People in my office don't like Perez Hilton, but I do; he's brilliant. A million times better than the awful Katie Hopkins, his nemesis, and her crew. And right now the ads are on and there's an eviction coming up. It won't be Perez as he's currently segregated from the rest of the house on some kind of secret mission set by Big Brother.

Anyway, I'm sounding pretty sad. It's not that I'm a Celebrity Big Brother fanatic, never have been, but when you sit down and watch a few minutes you get hooked and that's just what's happened to me.

On a completely different subject, if ever you find yourself in Leicester, go to The Globe on Silver Street. It's excellent. Oh, hold on, Celebrity Big Brother's back on. A live eviction! "The results are now in." But who's coming out? "It's time to talk to the house. Celebrity Big Brother House, this is Emma...".

"The viewers have spoken. Your fate is sealed. I can now reveal the two housemates with the most votes and, therefore, safe from eviction are....Nadia and....Katie Hopkins!" But who's going out? Hold on, it could be Cami Lee, Patsy, "one of you is about to leave the celebrity big brother house." But who? It's...Patsy! Patsy Kensit has 30 seconds to say her goodbyes.

I have to say that I like Patsy Kensit. She's got a bit of style about her, unlike most of those in the house. So let's hear what she has to say...after another ad break.

Great Aldi ad with a bear in the woods talking about toilet paper. Do bears shit in the woods? Of course they do!

It's back on! Is Patsy pleased or disappointed to be out? Pleased. She says it's stressful and madness (in the house). "The problem was I just didn't want to get involved in the fights," Patsy says. "I'm really happy to be out."

Is this boring? It is, I know, but here I am sitting in a budget hotel in Leicester. Although, to be honest, I've been watching it at home too. The last time I watched Celebrity Big Brother was in 2005 (or 2006) when Pete Burns was in the house.

Anyway, back to Patsy, she likes Cami Lee (boos from the audience).

"I'm safe, I'm calm and my intention is good," says Patsy while in the Big Brother House.  Mind you, what's with all the 'give peace a chance' stuff? A bit out-dated, don't you think? But hey! I like her calmness.

"My time in the big brother house has been a little bit surprising but I'm glad I did it," she says and now the fun begins as the housemates are about to find out that Perez hasn't left the house, as they all thought – he's back and the Perez Show continues, although he's now permanently up for eviction. Not that he cares! If he does get evicted he still gets paid.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A cold and frosty morning as we ride...to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

No cycling for yours truly on Saturday and it was kind of welcomed in a way. The problem with missing a week is that you enjoy a lie-in and so, when it comes to getting up early in the cold weather to go riding, there's a strong reluctance to get out of bed. But I had a valid excuse: an early trip to a shoe shop near Claygate. Andy rode to the churchyard, non-stop.

Lopsided, but pointing in the right direction
Sunday was game on, however, and even though I admit to feeling a little reluctant to hit the cold air – and it was cold – as soon as I'd jumped out of bed and had the kettle on downstairs, I realised that I was looking forward to getting out there.

I wrapped up warm, opting once again for the flappy hat and terrorist balaclava combo to keep out the cold and soon I was riding along the sparkling roads towards Church Hill. I was constantly concerned about my left foot (see previous post) although things are much better now. My problem is that I know whatever was wrong with my foot is still there, it's still lingering, waiting for another opportunity to play up. What could it be? It's hard to tell. A sprain? Possibly. Arthritis? Could be. Rheumatism? Maybe. But it's definitely not gout. Hooray!

Andy's walking boots
So I tried to use my right leg more than my left in an effort to reduce stress on my left foot and it seemed to work, although the only part of my body that was cold appeared to be my feet. I noticed that Andy had taken to wearing walking boots and thicker socks; this might be the answer – at least until the weather warms up and who knows, it might be the cold weather that's causing the problems.

Talking of the weather, yesterday (Saturday 24th January) was very pleasant. It was a big shame that I didn't go out. The sun was shining the weather was mild in terms of the temperature and I started to regret my decision not to venture out, especially as today it was cold and frosty outside. Not that I really noticed as the balaclava and flappy hat kept most of the cold at bay.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop
We rode the fast way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop mainly because I didn't want to put the stress of Beddlestead Lane on my left foot. It was pleasant enough and, as usual, when we reached our destination out came the tea and biscuits and we chatted about this and that before taking a few photographs and heading home again.

The road to Westerham...but not today
I reached home around 0930hrs and saw Phil in his front garden. He admitted to his dislike of the cold weather and said that Andy and I were putting him to shame. I told him that Andy was missing his sausage sandwiches and then put the bike in the garage until next week. No cycling next Saturday but we're both back on the road next Sunday.

Generally speaking the bike is alright, although it's still a little temperamental in the gears department. For some reason it chose today not to change down to the lower crank at the front. The last time this happened I had to walk up Hesiers Hill. Still, it's riding well other than that and I'm loathe to send it back to the bike shop as, invariably, something else tends to go wrong as a result. The last time, for instance, I think the block they put on was slightly higher geared than the block it replaced, making my ride just a little bit harder. Things are best left alone.

For next week I might sort myself out with a pair of those heavy duty walking socks and some new laces for my walking boots, the ones with the steel toe caps purchased in Brixham back in 2010 from Shoe Zone (my favourite shoe shop). You won't catch me wearing any trendy brand names as I don't see the point.

Weatherwise now, at 1116hrs on Sunday morning, the sun is shining but the weather people say it will cloud over and that tonight we can expect rain, which is making it's way down the country from 'ooop Narth".

Sunday, 18 January 2015

My left foot...

Late February 2012 was the last time I recorded there being anything wrong with my left foot and if there is any kind of pattern developing (assuming that cycling and the state of my foot are in some way linked) then it has to be steep hills and possibly pushing things a little too far. Back in 2012 Andy and I rode to Limpsfield village following an off-road route through the Titsey Estate. On the return journey we had no choice other than to ride up Titsey Hill to reach the plateau and Botley Hill Farmhouse. The following day I was in the same state I found myself in last Monday – unable to walk. In a nutshell all of this week I've been hobbling around. It started Monday and got progressively worse as the week progressed. It was so bad that I was quite literally dragging my left leg behind me and it took me an inordinate amount of time to get anywhere. Fortunately my wife picked me up each night from Purley station, saving me the agony of the longish walk home. I say 'longish' because any walk, be it a short stroll to the local shops, is like trekking across the Himalayas. It wasn't pleasant and night times were just as bad as a dull, mildly throbbing ache meant that it was difficult to get to sleep. I resorted to Nurofen but was clearly not taking enough. In fact, I ought to relate my Nurofen story. In essence, all we had in the house were Nurofen melts, which, for some reason, didn't really appeal. Now you might say that if I was desperate, surely any port in a storm and all that, but for some reason I wanted basic Nurofen. So, at 0200hrs, I hopped out of bed – and by 'hopped' I mean I hopped out of bed on my right leg, wary that as soon as I put any kind of pressure on my left foot I'd be in total agony. I couldn't even put a shoe or trainer on without shrieking with pain. Suddenly the peace of the night was shattered. Arrrrgggggggggggggggghhhh! In the end I resorted to wearing my slippers.

At the foot of Hesiers Hill – perhaps I was over enthusiastic.
This shot was taken in the summertime.
Outside it was cold and quiet and the halogen street lights created a kind of lunar landscape in a suburban setting. I limped to the car, jumped in and drove off, passing a couple of gas stations and pulling in to their deserted, brightly-lit forecourts to see if they were open. It was hard to tell and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of the car and try walking if there was no point. The pumps were on; I could clearly see the digital read-outs of the meters, the forecourt was ablaze with light but there didn't appear to be anybody in the shop. I drove out and later found another gas station equally deserted. There was only one thing for it: the 24-hour Tesco in Purley – which, in all honesty, was where I was heading anyway. The huge car park there was virtually empty so I drove to the nearest parking space next to the store and then limped off in the direction of the shop floor. Fortunately I was directed to a small counter selling Nurofen Express, which I figured were good enough (although why 'brand extensions' exist I'll never know). There were no cashiers, just self-service machines, which required me to limp for a few yards more to pay. Clasping my much needed drugs I limped to the car, drove home, took some Nurofen and went to bed. It was around 0300hrs before I fell asleep, possibly later.

The week was characterised by limping everywhere and by Wednesday I figured a trip to the doctor's was in order so I booked up and found myself waiting almost an hour in the surgery's waiting room. GPs tend to be pretty useless as they don't really know what's wrong with anyone, they simply ask a few questions and then suggest that it might be X or Y and that anti-inflammatories are the best bet to start with. "Come back if you've still got it next week," she said and I limped away.

The last time this happened (back in February 2012) I went to a doctor in Croydon and asked them if they thought it might be gout. I was told no, not gout. If it was gout, she said, I wouldn't be able to touch it. Phew! But this time round the subject raised its ugly head again mainly because, over the Christmas period, I had stuffed my face with tangerines and oranges and other acidic fruits. I wished I hadn't mentioned it because it led to the doctor saying that perhaps I should consider a blood test. I hate blood tests. But she said it wasn't necessary so I haven't bothered. What she did say was 'no cycling', not this weekend at any rate, so I resolved not to go. Andy wasn't going on Saturday and, as it turns out, the rain was falling on Sunday, which meant it was likely that we would have aborted anyway. It was one of those damp mornings when everything had that wet look and the back lawn in particular took on a sponge-like appearance.

Fortunately, my foot is now better. I can walk virtually normally and I'm no longer in pain. There's nothing worse than being out of action for health reasons – in this case a dodgy left foot. It makes you realise the importance of good health at all times.

It also makes me realise how lucky I am to be able-bodied and how these things shouldn't be taken for granted. I'm levelling the blame for my left foot at Hesiers Hill on last Sunday's ride and, perhaps, I was overdoing it a bit. To be honest, I don't know the real cause, but that's the only thing I can attribute it to. Fortunately for me, it's over now. I'm feeling better, I'm not limping, I'm not in pain and I'll be back on the bike next weekend – weather permitting.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Stars in the early morning as we head the slow way... to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

Warlingham Green, Sunday 11th January around 0730hrs.
Like the beginning of most years, it's looking as if 2015 will be a slow start where cycling is concerned. Last week we only went out on Sunday; this weekend was no exception and it looks as if next week will be the same. It's a mixture of Andy not being able to make it and then yours truly deciding to lie in and not go riding, but then, ultimately, the weather proved to be so awful that neither of us would have gone out anyway.

I enjoyed my lie-in: for a start, I needed it. I fell in and out of sleep and it was just before 1000hrs when I finally found it in me to get up and start the day.

Last Saturday it rained all day. This weekend it was wind and rain and who knows what next week will bring? Hopefully not snow.

Trees near St Leonard's Church, Chelsham
Today's weather was fantastic and having enjoyed my lie-in yesterday I was raring to go. I was up at 0527hrs and downstairs before 0600hrs enjoying Shredded Wheat and a large mug of tea while watching BBC Breakfast News – there was some bad news during the week when some Islamist terrorists decided to attack the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. The radical magazine's cartoon depictions of the prophet Mohammed led to a handful of the magazine's cartoonists being gunned down in cold blood. While this was happening, another Islamist terrorist took hostages in a kosher supermarket on the other side of town in what looked like a co-ordinated attack. Needless to say it all ended badly. Innocent people were killed and the French security forces managed to take out all the Islamists bar one, a female, who escaped and is believed to be in Turkey. There's been a march through central Paris today attended by world leaders (including Buzz Lightyear) and, once again, the world is on high alert.

The mayhem has put me in a subdued state of mind, reinforced by some personal uncertainty in the family, which we're all a little anxious about. The weather is much improved over yesterday. The wind and rain has gone, the skies are clear and when I left the house at 0700hrs there were stars clearly visible above me as I pedalled towards Sanderstead High Street at the top of Church Way. It was still dark and my front and rear lights were both flashing, creating a strange strobe effect.

Andy on the return journey near St Leonard's, Chelsham
At the green I had time to take a few shots of the bike before Andy arrived. I could see his flashing front light a mile off and soon we were on our way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (the slow way). As we headed towards the turn-off point at Chelsham the skies brightened up and we wound our way around the country lanes towards Hesiers Hill and then Beddlestead Lane.

At the bus stop it was business as usual: tea, BelVita biscuits (this week we had the chocolate-flavoured variety, which reminded me of Coco Pops). Coco Pops in biscuit form – what could be better? 

Surprisingly – and for the first time in NoVisibleLycra history – we didn't see a single Lycra Monkey on our outward journey; they didn't make an appearance until we headed back along Beddlestead Lane towards Hesiers Hill. And they certainly made up for their earlier absence. We found ourselves constantly nodding and saying 'good morning' or 'alright?' and other pleasantries.

For some reason my gears were working again and I managed to ride up Hesiers Hill without dismounting, unlike last week when I had to walk up. We weaved our way around the country lanes near Saint Leonard's Church and back into Chelsham where a woman walking two dogs asked us to keep a look-out for a beagle that had seemingly escaped bail. We saw the fugitive dog crossing into woods but there was little we could do, other than offer it a cigarette or a light, so we headed towards the mini roundabout at Warlingham Sainsbury's and then right along the Limpsfield Road towards the green.

Andy won't be around next Saturday so if I'm going to take a ride I'll be alone. I'm already thinking of a ride to mum's, but if the weather's good I might even head for the churchyard or the village or, if I'm feeling really adventurous, Westerham.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The first ride of 2015 – slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop in thick fog

Andy on Beddlestead Lane
Ghostly tree on Beddlestead Lane

First, let's deal with Saturday 3 January. In a nutshell? Rained off. I awoke around 0600hrs to the sound of rain outside. In all honesty, it was a kind of blessing in disguise. I rose from bed, peered out the window and spotted a puddle on next door's conservatory roof being hammered by raindrops. It was raining! Time for a quick 'abort' text and then back to bed. I was fast asleep by the time Andy responded with a simple 'ok'. It rained for most of the day.

Sunday was a different story. No rain but there was fog. Serious fog. It was probably the foggiest it had ever been on one of our rides – 'since records began' (in this case late September 2009). Thick fog from the moment I stepped outside until the moment I returned just before 10am. Visibility? Probably about 25 yards, but at times it was almost magical. It was certainly dangerous enough to warrant a ride to the famous Tatsfield Bus Stop the slow way. The 269 would have been far too dangerous. We even rode back the slow way after our usual tea and biscuits. In fact it was on the return journey, as we rode along Beddlestead Lane, that I noted the magical quality of the weather. It was almost like being in the clouds and there was a watery sun in the sky.

Thick fog at the Tatsfield Bus Stop
A ghostly sun over Beddlestead Lane

The trees were ghost-like in their appearance, virtually concealed from view by the fog except for a ghostly outline as if sketched with a pencil on white paper. Everything looked different. It was hard to recognise sections of Beddlestead Lane and it was strange to see the normally familiar mobile phone towers sticking out of the fog like weird skyscrapers as we headed towards the bus stop. In fact, it was difficult to see the bus stop. Cars disappeared into the fog as we sat sipping tea, prompting our decision to ride back the slow way, which meant Hesiers Hill. Not pleasant at the best of times, but I had to walk up thanks to my gears letting me down: they wouldn't change down to the lower crank at the front. In all honesty I don't think I lost any time.

Once I re-mounted we wove our way around the country lanes towards Warlingham Sainsbury's and then back on to the 269 where, thanks to the suburban landscape – and street lights – it was a little safer than out in the sticks. The fog was a little less dense but not by much and after saying goodbye to Andy at Warlingham Green I headed towards Sanderstead and my last day off work before Monday, which would be my first day back in at least three weeks. We drove to Danehill and Trading Boundaries and then all that remained of the Christmas holidays was dinner followed by Sunday television.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 – a review of the year

2014 kicked off with bad weather and 'abort' texts. The first post of the year (Saturday 4 January) spoke of severe weather warnings and extensive flooding in certain parts of the country with people being washed out to sea, fallen trees and travel problems. But there was also the first of the year's 'Respect is Due' awards to my brother Jon who rode out on New Year's Day 2014 and, as I wrote at the time, "took a major soaking in the process". Having dried his wet clothes on the radiator round at mum's, Jon put them back on and took another soaking getting home.

Sanderstead churchyard, Jan 2014
The following day there was a lull in the weather and a ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop for Andy, Phil and yours truly and this led to one of 2014's iconic blog images (see pic left). On this particular ride, Phil provided Christmas cake on what proved to be his first ride with us since November 2013. It almost goes without saying that the weather closed in again, but not until we had all returned safely to our respective houses.

January 2014 was a time for excuses and, arguably, the most ridiculous excuse of the lot: Phil aborting because he was up most of the night waiting for his marmalade to boil. It was also when the BBC reported the stabbing of a 40-year-old man in Tatsfield, Surrey. His injuries were described as not life threatening and his attacker was arrested on suspicion of grevious bodily harm (GBH).

While Phil waited up for his marmalade to boil, I adapted well to my new 'bus wanker' status. No car meant I had to rely upon the buses, which in many ways was good news (I walked more and spent less) but the weather during this period was atrocious and when I eventually bought a car in February (a Toyota Corolla), I was more than happy to surrender my Oyster card. As I wrote on Sunday 12 January, "Not having a car has its advantages. We walk a lot more than we used to, which is good."

I became a seasoned 'bus wanker'
The poor weather meant a lot of rides to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, although we did manage an 'urban ride' to mum's in January and Andy and I found ourselves discussing how it was just like being a kid again, "It was odd that Andy and I were both on our bikes, as we might have been aged 13 or 14, cycling round to my house, perhaps, after school or on a Saturday afternoon. It would have been strange, in a good way, if Andy had referred to mum as 'Mrs Moggridge' as he might have done aged 13, but there we were, windswept and hungry and eagerly awaiting our tea and cake."

In February the bad weather continued with plenty of dramatic skies and rainy and blustery weather. Somerset, Devon and Dorset were virtually cut off from the rest of the country and our shorter rides continued. Flooding in the Woldingham area meant that Andy resorted to meeting Phil and I at the top of Slines Oak Road rather than Warlingham Green, just like the old pre-blog days.

Matt and Jon at mum's house
I managed to lose 21lbs having cut out bread and sweets from my diet (something I persevered with throughout the year). Oddly, the strange knocking noise that might well have been a dodgy bottom bracket, ceased and has not returned. I've put this down to losing weight. I look and feel better and I've gone down a shirt size. Nice work!

In March, while rides to Tatsfield continued, we did manage to reach Westerham on a couple of occasions over the weekend of March 22/23. On the second ride I managed to get our first puncture of the year (Sunday 23 March). It was late March and the weather people were still predicting temperatures of minus three degrees – a week before the clocks went forward.

April was characterised by yours truly taking a week off work and cycling every day. In fact, I cycled for nine consecutive days, the weather had improved considerably and all was well with the world – well, alright, the world wasn't well at all, we had ongoing problems in the Middle East (Syria, Israel, ISIS) and while the UK economy was said to have improved, it hadn't really. But leaving aside world affairs, we still managed to get, as I put it, 'a major soaking' on a ride to the bus stop on Sunday 6 April and rain stopped play completely over the weekend of 26/27 April.

My first 2014 puncture
The highlight of May was riding around Indianapolis in the USA using the city's recently introduced bike share scheme. I took major advantage of the bikes and managed to cover a great deal of the city where dedicated bike lanes have been introduced. In fact, NoVisibleLycra found fame (not fortune) in Indianapolis as my two posts on the city's bike share scheme were posted on the Urban Indy website.

In June I found myself riding around Berlin, which was excellent – especially riding through the Tiergarten to the Reichstag and spotting a red squirrel – and, back home, while we were still riding to places like the Tatsfield Bus Stop, Westerham was putting in more regular appearances. On Sunday 15 June we headed to our favourite North Kent market town and ate sausage sandwiches, courtesy of Phil who, it turned out, is quite a gourmand. As summer progressed we were treated to his excellent corned beef pie and a rather tasty Bakewell tart and let's not forget the efforts of one of Phil's daughters (he has three, but I can't remember which one) who made an excellent honey cake. Phil and I enjoyed it with our tea at the Tatsfield Churchyard on Saturday 21 June – the longest day. The following month, on 20 July, we all rode to Westerham and Phil brought his Mary Berry's Christmas cake along. The weather was cloudy but warm and bright with sunshine expected (and delivered) later in the day.

Riding round Indianapolis, USA
In August, Andy braved torrential rain for Ride London and later wrote an exclusive report for the blog. "The euphoric feeling I was getting as I cycled through Whitehall and rounded Trafalgar Square was incredible. The finish line at The Mall lie ahead and as I crossed the finish line I realised that this was easily the hardest charity event I had ever done – a real test of mental strength."

September saw three rides to Westerham and a couple of suburban rides to mum's, not forgetting a solo ride to the Tatsfield bus stop for yours truly. The weather was still very good, prompting me to write that "We've been blessed with what can only be described at this time of year as an Indian summer." But it wasn't just the Indian summer, the whole summer had been wonderful and it seemed like a long time in shorts and tee shirts before we began to consider gloves and jumpers again.

Andy braves Ride London 2014
October was pretty uneventful, but we did manage a 'heads down' ride to Westerham on an autumnal Saturday morning (11 October). While there were certainly leaves on the ground at the green, the weather was still very mild and the gloves didn't go on for some time.

In November my gears started to play up. It wasn't so much the gears but the block, which had worn out, and the chain. The end result was a new block and a new chain and now all is well again, but it meant a week of no cycling while the bike was in the repair shop. Once fixed, however, we headed for Westerham where the shopkeepers had started to prepare their shopfronts for the festive season. The weekend of 30 November was good for cycling. Andy and I rode to Westerham and then I rode to mum's alone – covering 34 miles in total.

Cycling in Berlin
Soon it was December and the bad weather started to kick in; it got colder, prompting Phil to make it clear that we probably wouldn't see much of him until the spring. He hibernates, just like Freda, the Blue Peter tortoise of times gone by. I can see him now packed away in a long cardboard box covered with straw.

Jon's bottom bracket on his Kona failed and he had to buy a new bike as a result. Andy and I braved the cold but kept the rides short. Yes, we were back at the Tatsfield Bus Stop again and I had to don the famous flappy hat and balaclava combo to keep out the cold, foregoing the use of my crash helmet based on Boris Johnson's advice that it's not really going to make any difference if I meet with an accident. Not sure about that, Boris, but I'll go with your advice as warmth is crucial. 

Flappy hat and balaclava
Andy received another Respect is Due for riding out alone on Christmas morning – a first for NoVisibleLycra. He rode to Chipstead Lake. Actually, on the 'respect is due' front, Phil also scored rather highly thanks to his culinary flair – Mary Berry's Christmas Cake, Jamie Oliver's Bakewell tart, the aforementioned honey cake produced by one of his three daughters, and his excellent sausage sandwiches.

Andy and I  rode out on Boxing Day to Tatsfield Village, armed with mum's Christmas cake, and took the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop on 28 December. I've considered a New Year's Day ride (which would be a first for us) but in all likelihood I'll probably stew in bed and ride out on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 January 2015.

All things considered it was a great year for riding. On a personal level I managed to ride around Indianapolis and Berlin, not forgetting Amsterdam last month. Andy succeeded in completing, among other long-distance charity rides, the Ride London 2014 event and, as a team, we upped our game and embarked upon more regular rides to Westerham although, in all honesty, we need to do more trips of over 20 miles and perhaps in 2015 we need to up our visits to Chipstead Lake.

Phil's Bakewell tart
If we are to make a collective New Year Resolution, it has to be something along the lines of more cycling, greater distances, more regular rides to Westerham, find new destinations – the latter, I think, being very important. We haven't been to Godstone Green for a while – because of the hill coming back – we haven't braved Marden Woods, we should throw in a couple of Woodmansterne Greens to see Jon and Jon (if you're reading this) you should be coming over this way once in a while. It would be good to see you on a ride to Westerham or the famous Tatsfield Bus Stop.

It's 1109hrs on New Year's Eve 2014 as I write this. The frost has gone and the temperature outside is much warmer than it was earlier this morning and yesterday. I think it's going to be milder over the next few days, but let's not forget that over the next three months the weather is likely to get a little more severe. Snow is surely on the cards and we're going to get plenty of rain, fog, ice and sleet before the clocks go forward and the decent weather arrives. However, if this year is anything to go by, we'll probably manage to avoid a major soaking as these days we're rarely caught out – call it a sixth sense or call it just lucky.

Phil's corned beef tart
The bikes have all performed well. My Kona Scrap could do with a full service but it's generally fine. The block and chain were replaced recently at Cycle King, I've got new (bright yellow) handle grips – or rather I've got one new handle grip (I've yet to replace the one on the left hand side) – and I have front and rear lights working. At this time of year there are dark starts and they will continue until March (or thereabouts).

Andy's Kona Blast is still in need of a good clean (it's always caked in mud). His racing bike, on the other hand, is nice and clean. Jon, as I mentioned earlier, has recently bought a new Cannondale.

Phil guarding his tart
I keep going on about how my Kona Scrap, while amazing, is totally wrong for the sort of riding we do; invariably we don't go off road so a more sensible steed would be more applicable, but since when have I been sensible about anything? Besides, I like my bike, even if it is a little juvenile in appearance and attitude, and have no intention of changing it. In my opinion, it does the job and if that job is made harder by thicker tyres, a heavy frame and just 16 gears, then so be it – at least I'm getting more of a work-out than I might be getting with a more sensible machine. Perhaps 2015 will be the year I purchase some mudguards, who knows?

In Amsterdam, November 2014

As for the highlights of 2014, I guess mine would have to be the cycling abroad, especially in Indianapolis and Berlin. I haven't asked him, but I'm guessing that Andy's highlight would be the Ride London event in August and as for Phil, it's hard to say what he'd pick – although his bakery skills were certainly among our highlights.

For now all that remains is that I wish all readers of NoVisibleLycra a Happy New Year for 2015. When I check the statistics I note that there are readers all over the world, some of whom have already celebrated the start of the new year. I'm thinking, of course, about Simon Cotter over in Australia. We haven't heard much from Simon of late, or our pal in Boone, Iowa, Greg Bowles, but here's hoping all is well for them both.

The much maligned Tatsfield Bus Stop

Monday, 29 December 2014

Sunday 28th December – taking the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

The cold weather is beginning to set in. As I write this on Monday 29th December 2014 it's around minus three degrees outside (or rather it was minus three degrees). Right now (at just gone 1000hrs) the sun is shining, there is still a frost on the lawn, but I'm guessing it's a few degrees above freezing.

Saturday's ride was aborted because of heavy winds but we were out on Sunday and once again I was wearing my ridiculous-looking flappy hat and balaclava combo – very warm, but I'd be the first to admit that I looked pretty odd.

I met Andy at the usual place and we decided to ride the long way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop. While it's quite a work-out when compared with the faster way (along the 269) it's safer (no traffic) and far more sociable (it's easier to talk and ride two abreast due to the lack of cars).

Andy's racer, Chipstead Lake, Christmas morning 2014.
Beddlestead Lane is not easy. It's a slow climb and it can be tiresome. There are various markers along the way that enable us to chart our progress and soon enough we found ourselves on Clarks Lane. Beddlestead Lane has its ups and downs. It passes through woods and skirts fields and there are a couple of houses along the way, not to mention flocks of sheep watching our every movement. My paranoia towards sheep is well-documented on this blog.

We saw only one Lycra monkey en route to the bus stop and Andy commented that while he was out on Christmas Day morning (he rode alone to Chipstead Lake and gets a major 'respect is due' for his efforts) he saw a few brave Lycra monkeys and decided, as it was Christmas, to offer his season's greetings – a kind of Christmas truce. I ventured that he should have suggested a game of football in homage to the famous World War l Christmas Truce.

As for the Tatsfield Bus Stop, it was still just that: the same old bus stop. It never changes. It's a lump of wood that shelters us (and others) from inclement weather. Today, however, it was, as always, just the same old same old. Well, not quite. For some inexplicable reason, somebody had screwed a gold-coloured clothes hook into the wood. It doesn't say much for the bus service as it probably means there's enough time to take off your coat, make yourself comfortable and endure a long wait.

If I was a tramp I wouldn't sleep rough at the Tatsfield Bus Stop – it's too exposed, but it does have one redeeming factor: it's off the ground (or rather its integral bench is off the ground). In this cold weather the last thing you want if you're sleeping rough is direct contact with the ground. Why we discuss sleeping rough and being tramps whenever we're sitting at the Tatsfield Bus Stop I'll never know, but we do. Personally, I'd sleep in the small woods at the top of White Lane, in a small tent, concealed from view, although at this time of year, with bare branches and fallen leaves, it's difficult to remain hidden.
Why the clothes hook?

Perhaps that clothes hook means that somebody has made the bus stop their home. Who knows? I'll keep you informed if I see anything else there, like a sofa or a coffee table or a 'home sweet home' sign nailed to the wall and mounted in a quaint wooden frame. When Andy rode along Pilgrim's Lane towards the lake on Christmas morning he encountered an entire bathroom suite dumped in the middle of the road and, as we rode up Beddlestead Lane earlier, we encountered another example of 'fly tipping'. Somebody had left a load of domestic rubbish by the side of the road: a bedside cabinet, a vacuum cleaner – what a mess.

After two cups of tea and some Belvita biscuits we headed home. Andy branched off halfway and I continued north along the 269. I reached home around 11am and later drove to Felbridge to see Dave and his rescued dog Sasha – a Staffordshire Bull Terrier with a sad face and clearly in desperate need of a permanent home. It wasn't a 'dangerous dog', thankfully, and I quite liked her. I stayed for tea and biscuits and left after dark, reaching home around 1900hrs – home in time for part two of Top Gear's Patagonian adventure.