Monday, 15 September 2014

Wind chime weather

A few posts back I suggested that summer had left the building. It hadn't. We've been blessed with what can only be described at this time of year as an Indian summer. There is no need yet to wear gloves while riding the bike. No need for more than one layer of clothing. Riding downhill is met with nothing but a warm breeze and the threat of rain and wind is non-existent. No doubt things will change, but right now there's nothing to complain about.

Waiting for Andy near Botley Hill, Sunday 0805hrs.
In the back garden I have a wind chime and it is now that it plays it's cheerful tune, accompanied by the rustling leaves of nearby trees. Sitting outside on Sunday afternoon having mowed the lawns, chopped back the golden rod and planted a few bulbs, I enjoyed a cup of tea in the relative solitude of the time and place. Not for me the crisis in the Middle East or the knife edge boredom of the Scottish referendum. I was, I suppose, busily doing nothing for a brief moment in time.

I had risen early with a view to a solitary ride. Andy was out of circulation and while Phil had said he would be there for a ride on Sunday, he wasn't outside when I emerged from the house around 0700hrs. Later I received a text. Phil had overslept, but he's been cleared by the NoVisible Lyca committee. Our rules are simple: you either ride or you don't; nobody's going to reprimand you if you decide to 'abort', although you should abort. Having said that, I kind of knew that Phil wouldn't be riding as he'd have been there waiting for me by the time I hit the air. At 0710hrs I pedalled off, unsure where to go on my own.

Mum's place was high on the agenda. An urban ride through Wallington and Carshalton seemed like a good idea, but somehow it seemed more of an effort than a rural ride to Botley or the Tatsfield Bus Stop, so I headed off on my usual route: Ellenbridge, Southcote, Elmfield, Morley, Church Way, Limpsfield Road, Botley Hill and then either the bus stop or the churchyard.

At Tatsfield Churchyard – clearly running out of ideas.
As I approached Warlingham Sainsbury's I received a text from Andy asking if I was out on the bike. I was, I said, and told him my location. He suggested meeting at the roundabout beyond Botley and from there we rode to the Tatsfield Churchyard for tea and biscuits and a chat about people who use only the subject box of an email to convey their message. It's a bit like writing a short note on an envelope, underneath the address and then putting a sheet of blank paper inside the envelope. Not cricket, in other words. Enough said. Later Andy sent me an email with the entire message in the subject box.

I didn't ride on Saturday as I had things to do around the house and while I was fully expecting a solitary ride on Sunday, it was good to have Andy on board. Riding alone is fine, but having a 'riding buddy' is far preferable. Next week I'll need all the motivation I can get as both Andy and Phil won't be going. An urban ride to mum's is likely on one of the days, but I might just muster up the enthusiasm to ride alone to Westerham, who knows?

My bike (and crash helmut) near Botley Hill on Sunday.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

In Luxembourg...and letting the trains take the strain

I set off on Wednesday morning by car (I was the passenger). We were headed for Folkestone where we picked up a train – the Euro Shuttle – that took us across the English Channel. The journey took approximately 35 minutes. We simply sat in the car and when the train emerged in Calais we drove off and followed the road signs to Rheinberg, a small town not a million miles from Duisburg from where I would later catch the first of three trains to Luxembourg.

Exactly how Luxembourg is spelt is anybody's guess: is it 'Luxemburg' or is it 'Luxembourg'? Or, indeed, is it Luxemborg? It's a mystery, and while I initially made a decision to go for the former, I saw the word 'Luxembourg' on Luxembourg station so that is how Luxembourg is spelt. It has to be. If the station gets it wrong there's no hope for any of us. So, for those not completely clear, it's 'Luxembourg'.

This is the first time I've been to Luxembourg and sadly I'm not going to get much time to look around. Up until today, my only connection with Luxembourg has been Radio Luxembourg when I used to lie in bed as an early teen listening to the Emperor Rosco on my crackly old transistor radio.

The Orsoyer Hof hotel near Rheinberg
Last night was spent in the Orsoyer Hof hotel in what I can only describe as a small hamlet on the outskirts of Rheinberg. It was what I would call a 'blast from the past'. Very mid-to-late seventies, the Orsoyer Hof's restaurant bore a strong resemblance to the old UK steak houses and the past was reinforced by the music on the sound system – Procol Harum and Hot Chocolate. I chose beef stroganoff as it was the only thing I could recognise on the menu, but the portion size was such that I couldn't finish it all. Rare for me, I know, but it was just too much.

The hotel room was sort of okay, although I'm not a great fan of rooms that open directly on to the outside world as those in the Orsoyer Hof did. The rooms were below street level and accessed by a single flight of stairs.  In all honesty it was a bit dingy all round. The breakfast was piss poor – rolls and processed cheese, no tea, no cereal – and overall it wasn't really my scene. Having said that, bed and breakfast was only 47 Euros so there was little room for complaint, although I wouldn't return.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch in Restaurant Caruso in Rheinberg, the only restaurant I've ever visited that doesn't have a menu (the chef/proprietor simply comes over and asks you what you want). We chose sole and pannacota, not forgetting a decent bottle of wine. Unbelievably good. The sole was filleted in front of us and was as tender as you like and accompanied with some al dente pasta and a rather delicious tomato and garlic dressing.

View from the train to Trier Hbf
After lunch I was driven to Duisburg where I hopped aboard the 1612hrs train to Koblenz. There was a 20-minute wait for the 1822hrs from Koblenz to Trier Hbf and then a short walk across the platform at Trier Hbf to catch the 1952hrs to Luxembourg.  The second part of the train journey from Koblenz to Trier HBF was wonderful as the train hugged the northern banks of the Mosul – some great scenery as the train passed through Tries Karden, Cochem and Bullay where quaint houses nestled on green hillsides leading down to the water's edge. The train arrived in Luxembourg after dark at 2045hrs and I crossed the road to my hotel, the Best Western International, which was across the road from the railway station – the most conveniently located hotel I've ever had the good fortune to check in to.

The hotel was fantastic from the word go and there was good news from the moment I checked in: a complimentary glass of wine, 10% off my meal and free WiFi. Perfect! Room 304 was good too: an LG ('Life's Good') flatscreen television (Pistorius not guilty of murder, said CNN, but he could be guilty of culpable homicide*), a decent double bed and a gleaming bathroom, unlike last night's gloomy looking shower room in Rheinberg.

When I reached the restaurant it was full of Japanese people and I feared that I was invisible to the waitresses, but I was wrong and soon I had my free glass of red wine. I ordered roasted salmon with potatoes and carrots – good old 'hospital food' – and ordered a second glass of wine and some sparkling mineral water before signing the check and heading back to the room. It was 2200hrs and I was considering a walk, but in all honesty I needed to relax, and, besides, it was dark so what could I possibly see other than closed shops and shadowy people making their way here and there, to and fro.

Room 304, International Hotel, Luxembourg
If I'm up early enough I'll have time to take a stroll around Luxembourg, but after the meeting there will be just one hour before I catch my train back to Brussels Midi and then my second train to London St Pancras International.

It's been a rushed trip in many ways. I've got a meeting tomorrow at 1100hrs and I've got to be on the 1324hrs train to Brussels Midi in order to catch the Eurostar to London.

I'll take a stroll tomorrow morning, albeit briefly, and I'll see if I can find some 'Boris Bikes' but I doubt I'll have time to ride anywhere as another day of train travel beckons. You're probably wondering why I didn't fly back home. Well, the price was roughly the same, but flying means a taxi to the airport, it means hanging around beyond passport control for an hour or so spending money on food and drink in the process, so I figured it would be cheaper and more relaxed to simply jump on a train and the fact that my hotel is right across the road from the railway station makes the train the best option.

The view from room 304...
I've got about an hour to explore Luxembourg so I better make the most of it.  This is one of the most rushed trips, as I've probably said before.

I had a pleasant breakfast this morning consisting of cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit and a cup of English breakfast tea and now, here I am, putting the finishing touches to this post. Outside the sun in shining and I'm about to go out for a walk prior to a meeting and then, after the meeting I'll head over to the railway station, which is visible from where I am sitting now, and catch the 1324hrs train to Brussels Midi and then I'll find the Eurostar to London. I've probably said all of this before, but I don't want my blog to look too untidy, hence the extra words.

Back in the UK...
I'm now back in the UK, meeting over. Before I embarked upon my journey home, however, I had lunch in the Alfa brasserie across from Luxembourg station – not brilliant, it has to be said, apart from the Leffe Brune and the bread rolls. I took the train from Luxembourg to Brussels Midi and it took an age. The most frustrating part of the journey – actually, the only frustrating part of the journey – was when we approached Brussels and I discovered that there were loads of Brussels stations: Brussels-Luxembourg; Brussels Schuman; Brussels Zuid; Brussels Nord; Brussels Central; and, of course, Brussels Midi.
Yes, Luxembourg has Boris Bikes...

I had an hour to kill on Midi station and wandered aimlessly around looking in shop windows and getting generally bored. I didn't want to spend money in a café or drink a beer in a bar so I window-shopped and never bought anything (that is, after all, what window shopping is all about). But then, fed up to the back teeth with Brussels Midi railway station, I decided to go through the motions of international travel: putting suitcase on conveyor, ensuring lap top is in a basket of its own before sending it through, then putting laptop back in suitcase and, of course, I almost forgot, showing my passport twice to French and then British passport control. The only bit of good news was that I managed to transfer from the later train (the 1856hrs) to the earlier train (the 1756hrs) and got home earlier than expected.

Oh, and talking about the spelling of Luxembourg (as we were earlier on in this post) I have photographic evidence that Luxembourg is spelt 'Luxembourg' and here it is. If you're going to get the spelling of a place name correct, the solution is very simple: go to the railway station.

* Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter) and is awaiting sentencing.

Proof the Luxembourg is spelt 'Luxembourg'

Sunday, 7 September 2014

More ramblings...and another ride to Westerham (total weekend distance: 44 miles)

Outside all is still and a little overcast and grey, just like yesterday morning. I'm in my usual place: the conservatory. It's 0643 hrs, cereal has been eaten, I've enjoyed a cup of tea and an Oat So Simple Fruit Muesli bar and now I'm getting ready for the ride. Andy and I had discussed riding to Westerham. Phil's not going. My phone is on charge as Andy might abort or Phil might reinstate himself on the ride.

It's been a busy weekend, which, this week, as last, has involved a trip to the municipal rubbish dump on the Brighton Road. I hate 'going to the dump' but over the last couple of weekends it's been a regular haunt as I've been up in the loft getting rid of stuff no longer needed: bits of old cardboard, dusty rucksacks, a green inflatable crocodile we bought in Calabria in 2007, you name it. This weekend it was the turn of an old portable television that works perfectly well but isn't digital. It's now sitting quietly in a container at the dump with a handful of discarded televisions and you can just imagine what they're saying to one another.

"Hey, man, what you in here for?"
"Same as you, brother, nobody needs me any more."
"Nobody needs you? Somebody must want you."
"Yeah? Well, it's not looking good, is it? I'm here, with you guys, waiting for God knows what."
"Well, I can tell you what's gonna happen, Bro. They're gonna kick your sorry arse, motherfucker."
"But I've got a lot of life left me in. I can be used for computer games."
"Computer games? I don't see no flatscreen, high definition, man; I just see an old-style telly."
"Old-style? You kiddin' me, man? I'm in good nick, I've been chillin' man, in the loft."
"The loft? You mean nobody wants you?"
"I guess that's what I mean? What's for dinner?"
"Hey, man. Has nobody told you? TVs aren't human, they can't eat. Get over it."

Matt and Andy, Westerham, Sunday 7th September. Pic: Andy Smith.
My second job was a trip to the local charity shop (Mind) to offload old clothes, a cycle rack, a pork pie hat and an old basket and then a trip to Waitrose to buy lunch. The sun was shining and other jobs were being threatened: cleaning the car was one and putting some new stuff in the loft was another and there was still the weekly shop to do.

What amazes me about food shopping is the price. I hate that moment when I'm standing at the check-out watching the green LED display on the till move upwards, like a taxi meter, and the smug way the check-out assistant announces, "That'll be £1,750,000. Have you got a Nectar card?" Alright, Nectar cards are from Sainsbury's. I was in both – Sainsbury's for dry goods and Waitrose for better quality meat, fruit and vegetables. The latter is our regular haunt, but it's so expensive it hurts. Although I like the fact that having a Waitrose card means I get a free newspaper. This week's Guardian was good, especially the magazine. I love reading Tim Dowling's column and this week's Experience was a man who lives in his car: first a VW Passat and now a similarly designed Audi.

I know this sounds stupid, but I'm interested in stuff like that: living rough in the woods and renting the house out (something I'll never, ever do, but thinking about it is quite fun). So the idea of sleeping in the car, ie making it my home, is also appealing, although not my Toyota Corolla, it's too small to live in. In fact, what intrigued about the guy living in his Passat (and now his Audi) was the fact that he didn't consider buying a small motor home, at least that way he'd get a kitchen table and a proper bed.

Think of the freedom! He can park up anywhere he likes; he could park in the office car park during the week and at the weekends he could find a nice spot in the woods or at a campsite or down by the sea, it's a brilliant idea – and if I was doing it I could rent out my house and make a bit of money on the side, in fact, it might even negate the need to work as I could lead a nomadic lifestyle and have it all paid for by a sitting tenant. Except that I have responsibilities to consider so it's completely out of the question. While it's totally impractical, however, I found myself secretly yearning to be that man. I even revised my fantasy about having a bestselling novel: prior to the beach house I'd live a like a gypsy, puttering around in small towns and enjoying being 'of no fixed address'. For more thoughts on this subject, click here.

The ride was virtually a carbon copy of yesterday morning, minus Phil. We were slightly faster, reaching Westerham at just gone 0800hrs, and sat at our usual table behind the statue of General Wolfe. Biscuits and tea appeared, we chatted about this and that – Andy saw our pal David last night (he was DJing at an amateur boxing event in Wallington Public Hall) – and then, after taking the obligatory photo (the shot for yesterday's post was a 'library photo' – in other words, a shot from the archive) we reluctantly hopped on the bikes and headed home. I say 'reluctantly' because there's nothing worse than the moment when, after relaxing with tea and biscuits, we get on the bikes and mentally prepare ourselves for the climb towards Botley Hill. We hate it if the truth be known and would rather simply laze around all day in Westerham than endure the pain of the hill. Alright, it's not that bad, but after chilling with a biscuit and a mug of tea, the last thing we want is to exert ourselves.

As we climbed the hill, a fog drifted in, although it was very misty below us earlier on as we rode along Clarks Lane and down the hill into Westerham.

Yesterday, I feared that the Tatsfield Bus Stop was up for sale and would soon be out of bounds as there was a Howard Cundey 'for sale' sign in front of it. It turns out that Howard Cundey is sponsoring the Tatsfield Beer Festival. As we sailed past the bus stop on Saturday there were a couple of Lycra monkeys relaxing there – the bare-faced cheek of it! What the hell were they doing sitting at our bus stop without asking permission? But we were Westerham-bound so it didn't really matter.

I reached home around 0945hrs and now, at 1425hrs the sun is shining and I'm considering cleaning the car.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Early morning ramblings...and then Westerham

Summer has left the building. Now I know that it's still fairly good weather out there – quite warm, not much wind or rain (in fact, hardly any) but sitting here now, in the conservatory at just gone 0630hrs, and it's fairly dark out there; and let's not forget that it's September – three months and a bit away from Christmas Day.
The statue of Sir Winston on Westerham's green. Archive pic.
If I had to choose between winter and summer, I'd take the latter any day. Cycling out on a cold, wintry day is no fun, especially if there's a cold breeze or, dare I say it, rain. I much prefer tee-shirt weather, being able to sit on the grass under a warm sun, although winter does have its appeal. There's something rather cosy about sitting in the conservatory in the dim light of morning, mug of tea and a bowl of Shredded Wheat.

It's very still out there at the moment. No wind. Just the hum of the computer and the birds tweeting. And now that we've moved the departure time to 0730hrs from the green it's great to just sit around, like now, writing a few words for the blog and acclimatising myself to the fact that I'm awake and ready for the ride.

I've received no texts from anybody saying they can't make it and if, like last week, we get a move-on, we should be able to reach the green by 0800hrs.

Hey, what is it about Cameron Diaz that I don't find attractive? Even when she's got next to nothing on – as in the poster for her latest movie Sex Tape – there's something about her that does nothing for me, but then I've never been a fan of dizzy blondes, perhaps that's it. I only bring her up because the aforementioned promotional image of her and her co-star in her latest movie has just appeared on my Yahoo! mail log-in page and I'm thinking: no, definitely not; I'd rather read a good book and sip tea.

Right, that's that out of the way. What else? You can tell I'm rambling, simply because I have the time. There's 10 minutes before I have to rush off and ride towards Warlingham Green and it's nice just to sit here writing about nothing. Mind you, I've got to find my trainers, chuck everything into the the rucksack and hope that Phil is outside waiting, so there's a lot to do and, as you can tell, the tranquility of a few moments ago is slowly ebbing away as the reality of hitting the road draws nearer.

I'm making it sound as if I don't like riding the old Kona. I do, honestly, but one of the problems with the later start is making myself a little too cosy in front of the computer and 'chatting' like this to nobody in particular, ie the miniscule audience that makes up my readers. I get roughly 50 hits a day, mainly from the USA and the UK but also from Australia and pockets of Europe and occasionally a comment from somebody I don't know.

Blogging is weird, but I'm addicted to it; if I didn't have to go out in a few minutes, I'd happily ramble on all day like this; God knows what I'd talk about, probably politics and world affairs, the usual stuff, I'd crack a few silly jokes, but, by and large, it would be a load of old rubbish. like the thoughts I have when I'm walking along the street: so much enters my mind as I wander around the suburban streets of South London and I flit from one thing to another, it's a bit like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty when he has to deal with the world's prayers. One minute I'm fantasising about what I'd do if I won a load of money (I'd buy a house on the beach and spend most of my time staring out to sea) or I'm thinking about what I've got to do at work or I'd fantasise about my silly novel, the one I wrote for my daughter just for laughs, becoming an international bestseller...and that one leads to me buying a house on the beach and staring out to sea.

To Westerham again (22 miles)
Since that last sentence, the one about writing a bestselling novel and buying a house by the sea with the money, three hours have passed and I've been out on a ride to Westerham (22 miles). Phil and I met Andy at Warlingham Green and then we got our heads down and powered along the Limpsfield Road towards Westerham, taking the usual route. We were pretty fast, there was no talking (well, hardly any) and when we reached Westerham (at 0805) we brought out the biscuits and the tea and started to chat, first about the Rolls Royce parked up near to us (I don't like them, they're too 'local businessman made good' for my liking, and they're so dated). Phil likes their elegance and Andy didn't really pass comment, although I don't think a Roller is Andy's cup of tea either.

Phil and Andy haven't seen each other since Andy rode the 100-mile Ride London event so we chatted a bit about that and both Phil and I decided that it wasn't for us, although we'd happily consider, say, London-Brighton or London-Cambridge next year (50 and 60 miles respectively). Andy, incidentally, has signed up for next year's Ride London event.

Today's weather was perfect for riding. It was warm, a little overcast, but there was little in the way of wind. On the ride back we rode steadily towards the foot of the hill and didn't seem to have any problem reaching the top, which is long haul, all the way to the Botley Hill Farmhouse. I've noticed that my level of fitness has improved since losing the weight: I'm riding faster than before and I'm not so worn out on my return. I discovered today that I can wear trousers with a 32in waist again and my collar size has decreased from 16in back to 15.5in. This is all good news.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

To Westerham...(22 miles)

If you're going to break the law, the best time of day is the early morning and I tend to do it once or twice a week, at the weekends. I'm not talking major stuff, like robbing a bank or indulging in a bit of house-breaking. No, simply riding the wrong way along a short stretch of one-way street and then riding through red lights – temporary lights, I hasten to add, along Church Way where there are some roadworks underway. It's a three-way set of temporary lights and, to be totally honest, at 0700hrs on a Saturday or Sunday morning there's never anybody around and if I really wanted to, I could simply ride on the pavement to avoid law breaking – although would that be law breaking too? – but in all honesty, I quite enjoy a bit of anti-social behaviour, especially when I'm wearing my rather ridiculous ASBO specials (as I tend to be most weekends when out on the bike).
Those ASBO specials should be locked away.
The weather was fantastic. Well, perhaps that's too strong an adjective, but compared to yesterday (when I decided not to ride out) it was lovely: the sun was shining, there were blue skies and cotton wool clouds. Yesterday it was a little overcast and the skies threatened (but never delivered) rain.

I was feeling good today as I powered up to the end of Church Way, crossed the busy road at the top and then sailed through the churchyard, across the green, past the pond and on to the Limpsfield Road. I powered along towards Warlingham Green where, at around 0730hrs, Andy was already there waiting for me.

An executive decision has been made. Andy was saying last week that he was having trouble getting to the green for 0700hrs. I know what he means. When I get out of bed at 0600hrs I like to chill for an hour, messing around on the computer, checking out the blog, drinking tea and having breakfast and when I've only got 30 minutes it's a bit tight. So the full hour chill is to return from next week, which will tie in nicely with the fact that it's September, the weather's going to get chillier and, sooner or later, the later starts will be back anyway.

The main reason behind the earlier starts is time. Or rather a lack of it, so we figured that to ride to Westerham and still have enough time to chill with tea, biscuits, cakes or sausage sandwiches, we'd need to leave earlier in order to get back home earlier. To a degree it worked and with the warm weather it wasn't really a problem, but that early morning rush wasn't pleasant so we're going back to meeting on Warlingham Green at 0730hrs, which means leaving the house at 0700hrs instead of 0630hrs. And let's not get beyond ourselves here: when we leave at 0630hrs for Westerham, we get there 10 minutes earlier than when we leave the house at 0700hrs so something's afoot. God knows what, though.

Today, wary of the fact that a later start would normally mean a shorter ride – usually the Tatsfield options of bus stop, village or churchyard – we decided to push the envelope and head for Westerham, with one proviso: that we simply shut the fuck up, keep our heads down and get on with getting there, which we did, in just 30 minutes. We left the green at 0730 and we arrived in Westerham at 0800hrs, giving us a full 30 minutes to chill before leaving at 0830 (the time we'd normally leave if we'd left Warlingham Green half an hour earlier).

It was tea and biscuits today (I love those biscuits Andy gets from Tesco) and our conversation revolved around many subjects including the Ukraine, ISIS and Brook's saddles (I've been thinking about buying one, but they're pricey – over £100). We took the obligatory photo (or rather Andy did – see above) and then headed out of town.

The long haul out of Westerham didn't seem too bad today, but I remembered how the climb doesn't end until we reach the pub (the Botley Hill Farmhouse). Up until that point it's a bit of a struggle and en route we pass many a Lycra monkey, eager to get home to check on his pension plan.

Andy branched off half way along the 269 and I continued into Warlingham, Hamsey and then Sanderstead. As Phil and I have often remarked, there's something really pleasant about riding down Church Way knowing that a ride has been completed and we're on the final leg of the journey. Today was no exception. I felt good as I followed, possibly too closely, a Skoda Fabia, which had to slow down to tackle the speed humps and then, the aforementioned temporary lights, which turned red, prompting me to take the pavement (behind a jogger) but darting back on to the road ahead of the Skoda, which was still waiting at a red light. Fortunately for me, nothing was coming the other way.

I continued to break the law after turning a sharp left into Morley Road followed by a sharp right in Elmfield Way, riding on the wrong side of the road down the hill in order to make a fast left turn into Southcote Road and another sharp right into Ellenbridge, hitting that speed hump just before the turn and allowing the bike to leave the ground momentarily. A brief period of 'no hands' followed but then, as I turned into Barnfield I jumped on to the pavement and rode home, getting back at roughly 0935hrs – really good going considering the later start.

Having not taken a ride yesterday, I'm glad we rode to Westerham as it meant we cycled 22 miles. It looks as if more trips to Westerham are on the agenda now that we know we can get there for 0800hrs if we just get our heads down, lessen the chit-chat and stop dawdling.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Being plain lazy...

Phil on holiday, Andy not going out and yes, I should have got out of bed and headed off on the bike, but I didn't. Why not? Because I stayed up later than usual on Friday night and didn't hit the sack until midnight and then, when I overslept – which, in my world, means waking up around 0700hrs – I made some Shredded Wheat, chilled a bit, checked out the weather through the conservatory window, and, by rights, I should have gone out. An urban ride might have been good: over to mum's for breakfast, meet Bon in the process, chew the fat and then ride home, but I didn't. Instead I kind of sat around thinking about it, going as far as looking for my trainers, but then I just said something like "Oh, sod it, I can't be arsed." And that was it. No riding.

Instead I lounged around a bit and then later drove over to mum's and had lunch. We went out for lunch, which was great. Banstead. Haven't been there for a while. Parked in the Waitrose car park – which is now on two levels, not just one – and headed over the road to the Edibles Deli – it doubles as a caff and offers waitress service. I had a ham-on-the-bone sandwich and a cup of tea. Mum had smoked salmon and a glass of milk. It was pleasant. I drove her home and then drove home myself and then took a trip to Oxted and back, followed by pasta and wine and (ahem) the X Factor, which was good, although Cheryl Cole now has a poncy surname, something sounding a bit like Italian aristocracy. And my problem with that is this: she might have a poncy-sounding, affluent European surname, but she's still got that God awful tattoo on her arse – you can't buy class.

So, after some wine and the X Factor and pasta and sauce I settled in for a night of Jackass on Viva – my favourite TV show. Right now Johnny Knoxville is goofing around with a rattlesnake and it's 1120hrs. Time for bed if I'm going on a ride tomorrow.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Long way to the Tatsfield churchyard – Sunday 24 August

It's been a busy and – I learned this morning – a sad bank holiday weekend. Sad in the sense that I awoke to the news that Sir Richard Attenborough had died, aged 90. What a great man. Movies like Brighton Rock and The Great Escape to name but two, and in them his roles as Pinky and Big X respectively must surely go down in history as among the great and iconic movie characters of all time. Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema and he was an accomplished director too.

Sir Richard Attenborough. Pic: Daily Mail
The busy element of the weekend involved a seven-mile charity walk, organised by the Dark Star Brewery, along what is known as the Downs Link, a disused railway track in West Sussex, which we joined at Partridge Green, just south of Horsham. The event was called 24/7 because there was a 24-mile bike ride and a seven-mile walk or run. Next year I'm going to ride it with Andy.

The weather on Saturday was perfect for cycling and walking.

Because of the walk, however, I had to abort my usual Saturday ride, but Andy gets a 'respect is due' for riding alone to Westerham (and sending me photos as proof – see shots below). On Sunday I rode out with Andy to the Tatsfield churchyard – the long way. We left later than usual, otherwise we'd have probably taken a ride to Westerham, but it would have meant getting back later  and, as always, there were things to do back home.

It was a pleasant ride and pleasant weather too, just perfect for a visit to the churchyard, which is great when the sun is shining and it's not too cold. Having said that, as August comes to an end, the weather is beginning to get colder. There's a nip in the air and, as I rode off from the house, I started to think about wearing gloves again. Andy, I noticed, was still wearing shorts, but even he said that their days were numbered. We met at the Green and headed off in the usual direction, turning left at the roundabout just beyond Sainsbury's and following the country lanes that run parallel to the 269 towards Hesiers Hill and then Beddlestead Lane.

Andy and Matt, Tatsfield Churchyard, Sunday 24th August 2014.
We chatted about this and that along the way and when we reached the churchyard, we parked up, drank tea and munched on biscuits. Our conversation ranged from historical – the First World War – through to current world affairs (Israel, Gaza and Iraq) and then on to the blog and how we both enjoy reading it even when we know what it's all about because we ARE the blog! It's odd, we both agreed, that we look forward to reading, say, this post, despite the fact that we know what happens because we were there. But it's more than just reading about what we've been up to in the immediate past. The blog is all about looking back through the archive to find out what we might have been doing, say, two years ago. It's something to fall back on when we want to be reminded of something good as it charts the good times we have on our rides. We both agreed that cycling has a special quality to it, a spiritual element. It makes us feel good and we both admitted to feeling a little down if, for whatever reason, we didn't go cycling.

Our only regret is that we never started the blog from the word go, back in August 2006 when our cycling started out – the pioneering days of discovering new destinations (such as Godstone Green, Chipstead Lake and so on) – all places that are commonplace these days, but back in 2006 were unknown to us as cycling destinations. It's a shame we hadn't recorded those walks from Westerham to Oxted when a puncture meant a squeaky yomp to the nearest railway station (Oxted) and a short ride home on the train in the days before it crossed our minds to bring a puncture repair kit on the rides.

Andy rides to Westerham on Saturday 23 Aug
Next weekend – or possibly this weekend if the truth be known – marks the the 8th anniversary of NoVisibleLycra, but the blog is only five years old, meaning that there are three years unaccounted for and those years were, in many ways, the best years. We used to ride to Westerham most weekends (before we got bored and started searching for new destinations) and stand outside the Co-op munching on a Belgian bun before riding home again, but gradually we introduced the flask of tea and the cereal bars and now, of course, with Phil on board, we're eating home-made Bakewell tarts and bringing along plates and cutlery. For these reasons the rides have become longer in terms of time spent, as with tea and cake comes conversation and today, one of the best parts of the ride is reaching our chosen destination and tucking into hot tea and biscuits or cakes or even sausage sandwiches – although, to be fair, it's mainly tea and biscuits.

As always, the thought of getting back on the bikes and riding back is a little bit depressing as it's nice to sit on a bench in warm weather, mug of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other, setting the world to rights or just having a laugh about something normally very immature in nature (we're all big kids). In fact it's quite amazing (and laughable) sometimes how childish our sense of humour can be when you consider that we all have adult responsibilities, but that's a good thing in my opinion.

Going back to destinations of old, I remember once we rode to Knockholt via Sundridge Hill, a punishing climb if ever there was one (easily one of the worst hills we've experienced). When we reached the top (without dismounting) I think we rode along Main Road from the top of the hill to the green where there is just one shop (Knockholt Village Shop). It was raining hard and there was no cover (that and the hill are two good reasons why we haven't been back in a while). I don't even think we had any tea with us so it was definitely the pre-blog days. All very depressing, but oddly, I think we should go there again if only to tackle that hill once more.

At the top of the hill out of Westerham
Andy and I parted halfway along the 269 and that night I went to watch a movie – Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark – in a field (Sackville School, East Grinstead). It got a bit nippy, put it that way, but it was an experience watching a movie in the open air and something to remember and that's what counts. Click here for more.

Now, it's Bank Holiday Monday and guess what? It's raining – it always rains on a Bank Holiday Monday. The sky is grey and it looks as if it's going to be wet and murky all day long. Cycling was totally off the agenda this morning. Andy was planning a lie-in and while I thought I'd be riding out alone to Tatsfield or Westerham or Botley, the late night and the expected poor weather meant that I too would be having a rare lie-in followed by boiled egg and fingers, cereal, a banana and a couple of toasted crumpets...not forgetting a cup of tea.

Andy might want to take note of this: I cleaned my bike  on Saturday afternoon. Got rid of all the caked-in mud and made it look a bit more respectable than some of the bikes you see on the road. I even oiled the chain!