Thursday, 3 September 2015

Ramblings from Düsseldorf...

View from room 407, Friends Hotel...
Wherever I go in the world everything, bar virtually nothing, is the same. Now, don't for one minute think that I'm talking about 'globalisation'. Globalisation is all to do with branding and big business and the fact that, wherever you go, you might encounter a Tesco or a Claire's Accessories or a Zara and so on. There's nothing worse than flying thousands of miles to the other side of the globe only to discover that the first thing you see is a McDonald's or a Tesco Express. I flew to Calgary once and saw a Claire's Accessories.

Earlier this evening I was sitting in Da Bruno, an Italian restaurant a short walk from my hotel here in Dusseldorf, Germany, where there was a leaving party of sorts going on. It was just the same as any other leaving party the world over; I could have been anywhere on the planet and possibly even in the middle of the Sahara desert, who knows? But I was in Dusseldorf, it was getting dark outside as we are now into September and the days are closing in, but the scene was just the same in London, Madrid, Paris, Warsaw, Montreal, New York, Mexico City, Brasilia, you name it. People were making self-conscious speeches or accepting gifts from their work colleagues, the usual stuff. And really that's it, there's not much else to say other than everybody's the same the world over – we're all so samey and predictable and we all experience the same phobias, the same desires, the same ambitions and the same failures. As my dad used to tell me, "You're not unique."

When you equate such thinking with the atrocities going on around the world, in places like Syria, you realise that most of those atrocities are caused by religion and governments and that most of the people caught up in conflicts would, I'm guessing, rather be sitting in a restaurant wishing good luck to their work colleagues who might be moving on to pastures new. Syria's refugees want safety and normality and so they're heading to Europe to live in what the Clash once called a 'safe European home'.

Room 407's telephone, Friends Hotel
I find myself thinking about those refugees and wondering when they last found themselves in a restaurant celebrating the fact that somebody had just turned 21 or was getting married or leaving one job to start another. If they have any memories at all I'm guessing that they're distant or long forgotten.

It seems to me that if you look at the root causes of a lot of the upheavals affecting the world today, it's always got something to do with religion. Frankly, I find it all a little crazy when you consider that 'religion' is just a belief system, nothing more, nothing less – in the same way that some people think Elvis is still alive – and why should anybody be forced to believe in something they don't want to believe in? I know. It all sounds like a very simplistic argument, but when you consider that belief systems  – in their various forms – are just that, 'beliefs', then surely we all need to get a grip and cast magic aside for the sake of reality.

I'm not sure where I stand on the big pillars of religious thinking, the main one being the afterlife, but I'm pretty sure that if we can't get a man to Mars or find a cure for cancer, Alzheimer's and the like, then there can't really be an afterlife. If there is such a thing, then I'd like to know why my dad hasn't been in touch (surely the dead are allowed ONE phone call). And how are they existing? In houses? Apartments? Hotels? And what age are they? The age they were when they died? Imagine finding yourself in the afterlife with all those virgins waiting to offer you a good time and having to admit that you're 84 and would have trouble raising a smile, not to mention anything else. The frustration of the real world would be carried forward to the afterlife and you'd be standing around wondering if there was another afterlife after the afterlife in which you had a choice of what age you'd want to be. Perhaps in the afterlife there are religious groups some of which put forward the argument that there is no afterlife after the afterlife; and conflicting groups arguing the opposite point of view. Perhaps there's a certain animosity between the two opposing camps and they're trying to blow each other up. Who knows?

Where conflict in Syria and Iraq are concerned, Tony Blair and George Bush have a lot to answer for and, in the eyes of many, are the real villains of the piece. Together they have destabilised the Middle East and enabled organisations like ISIS to exist and expand and it all falls back on the highly suspicious invasion of Iraq some 12 years ago – remember the spurious claim, made by Tony Blair, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that could hit the UK within 45 minutes? It was all a lie. Remember the suspicious and still unexplained death of David Kelly? Well, there were no weapons of mass destruction, but not because of faulty intelligence as the government would like us all to believe. The intelligence was fine it was just that, faced with outrage from the public at large, 'faulty intelligence' was the best excuse on offer at the time – and what an easy excuse! "If you can't trust the intelligence services, who CAN you trust?" Nobody if the truth be known, but then again, the truth will never be revealed, not with Lord Chilcott in charge. Let's not forget that Lord C is a very close friend of Tony Blair and a member of the establishment (LORD Chilcott) – so don't expect any kind of prosecution; it's not going to happen.
Friends Hotel, Dusseldorf after dark...

Today we are suffering for what Bush and Blair inflicted on the world and to what end? Back in the early noughties it was all about winning contracts for companies like Halliburton, but now it's more about how the West caused the problem and then sat back and did nothing, bowing to pressure to 'bring our boys home' and allowing disparate groups, like ISIS, to form unfettered. In short, it's a real 'can of worms' but in many ways that phrase 'you reap what you sow' springs to mind. Today we're having to deal with the consequences – lone wolf terrorist atrocities like Tunisia, the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and so on. 

In fact, terrorism aside, have you noticed how nobody within the establishment ever gets prosecuted? If there's a problem, say, with the police and it goes to the IPCC, the police always get off. And now, with historical child abuse allegations hitting the political establishment, isn't it amazing how it's all been left until they're dead or suffering from dementia and for those still in the firing line there's plenty of delaying tactics in place to stop or hinder any investigations going forward – possibly in the hope that those being accused will die off before an inquiry gets underway. All very, very suspicious if you ask me.

This morning there was a particularly disturbing image on the front page of the Independent of a very young boy washed up on a Turkish beach in Bodrum. The image brought into focus the problem facing Europe over its policy towards migrants coming from war-torn regions of the Middle East and Africa. The UK, apparently, has only taken in 216 refugees from Turkey, which is piss poor when you consider that we could operate more like a multi-storey car park: when it is discovered that a family from Britain has mysteriously left the country en route to a better life in Syria with ISIS, the spaces vacated could be filled by those wanting to enter the UK. We could put up one of those signs at Dover saying "Full" or "Spaces". However, with something like 330,000 people arriving on these shores from all over Europe – people living in Europe and moving to England to claim benefits – then perhaps it's not that good an idea.

I wandered back along Karlstrasse towards my hotel in the dark, but it's easy to spot as there's a green light illuminating a white building which is the Friends Hotel. Avid readers will know that I've stayed here before, back in June. It's a pleasant and unassuming place on the outside and this time I was staying in room 407 on the fourth floor where there is a framed image of Kylie Minogue over the bed. When I was last here I stayed in room 207 and had a photograph of Twiggy in the bathroom. The room's phone is a bling skull made to resemble Damien Hirst's 'Diamond Geezer', although it took me a while to work out that it was a phone.

After a reasonable night's sleep – I was awoken around 0330hrs by noises from the street – I went in search of a Netto supermarket in order to buy some toothpaste and stumbled upon a decent-looking bike shop selling Koga bicycles. I would love to buy a Koga bicycle. The shop was closed and dark so I couldn't go in, but I wandered back to the hotel and prepared to check out. I ordered a cab and spent the morning in a meeting and then, after a very pleasant lunch in a Chinese restaurant I walked back across town – it took me one hour using the iphone's GPS, but the weather was fine – there have been temperatures as high as 39 degrees C here in Dusseldorf.

Back on the tarmac at Gatwick airport...
I ordered a cab to the airport, but arrived miles too early, so I ordered a beer and some peanuts. The flight was delayed, but eventually it arrived and off we went. I love it when the pilot says "excellent flying conditions" and they were, although en route I discovered that it was against aviation rules to bring your own wine aboard a plane. "So if you'll finish that glass and then drink our wine, I'd be grateful," said a rather terse member of the cabin crew. To be totally honest, their wine was better than mine so I conformed with the hostess's wishes and enjoyed the short flight back to Gatwick. On both the outward and inward flights I had virtually the same meal: a croque monsieur with red wine, a packet of peanuts and a bottle of mineral water.

What I find really odd about easyJet is the airline's speedy boarding system. While it worked fine back in the day when there was basically a scrum for the seats, now that they've initiated allocated seating like proper airlines, there doesn't seem to be much point. Standing at the gate, those with speedy boarding were called to jump on the bus to the plane ahead of everybody else by about five minutes and then we all piled on. When we reached the plane, therefore, we, those who hadn't paid for 'speedy boarding', were the first off the bus and the first on the plane. But even if those with speedy boarding had their own bus, which ferried them to the plane before the proletariat, they would end up having to stand in the aisle waiting for whoever had the window and middle seat, so what's the point?

The flight time from Dusseldorf to London was 60 minutes, probably less. Normally I have enough time to eat a snack and one of those small bottles of wine before we land. Once off the plane and back in the dreary surroundings of Gatwick Airport, the problems started. Or rather one problem kicked off: the train was delayed and then it was delayed more so I had to get a 'stopping train' to East Croydon, via Horley, Salfords, Earlswood, Redhill, Merstham, Coulsdon South and Purley. I then drew some cash from the 'hole in the wall' at East Croydon and took a cab home, arriving around 2100hrs.

That wine I wasn't allowed to drink on the plane, I drank at home and then, after a bit of television, I went to bed.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Bank holiday rain and a word or two about David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries...

Bank holiday Mondays are traditionally rained off in the UK. The very phrase 'bank holiday Monday' brings to mind past days of gloom when there was nothing much to do but watch the television and look out of the window at rivulets of rain in the gutters and the occasional person wrestling with an unruly umbrella.

I knew it was going to be raining this morning and I was right. When the alarm went off at 0600hrs I just lay there listening to the news headlines without any sense of urgency – EU crisis talks on migration, the death of US horror movie director Wes Craven, Isis inflicting severe damage on an ancient temple in Palmyra and, of course, the death of neuroscientist Oliver Sacks.

Well, at least the grass is greener after a downpour...
At 0700hrs I looked out of the window to see the rain hammering down on next door's conservatory roof. There would be no cycling today, I thought. Now, sitting in my own conservatory, the rain hammering on the roof above me and the time rapidly approaching 0730hrs, I feel quite relaxed about the prospect of not riding the bike. Sometimes it's nice to just not go out, although I'd much prefer sunshine and blue skies and the prospect of a ride somewhere.

A book I've been dipping into of late is David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries. I bought a hardback copy of it back in 2011 and have been reading it here and there in between other books. Reading about his rides around Buenos Aires in Argentina makes me want to visit the city and follow in the footsteps of my grandfather, George Harry, who lived in the Argentine capital for a short while before enlisting in the army to fight in the Great War.
My hardback edition of David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries
I've referenced Byrne's Bicycle Diaries in past posts and will continue to write about it in the future as Byrne is an interesting man. I flicked to the back of the book where he discusses bikes and the fact that he doesn't like the folding bike with small wheels. Byrne rides around the cities of the world using a foldable bike and while he started off with a small-wheeled Peugeot he now rides full-sized folding bikes with some form of suspension. He talks about Montague and Dahon folding bikes with full-sized wheels, which can be folded into a large suitcase with wheels and checked in (when travelling by air) as a second piece of luggage. But I wonder if Byrne is making a rod for his own back. Surely, if he knows where he's going he can check out local bike hiring or the availability of a bike share scheme.

Avid readers of this blog will know that I've used bike share machines in Indianapolis, San Antonio, Montreal and Essen and have hired bikes from hotels in Berlin and Amsterdam. Although, to be fair to Byrne, he writes, "An alternative to all this luggage and packing is to rent a bike when you get to where you're going."

I agree with Byrne's thoughts on bicycle maintenance – that bikes with expensive gears and brakes are a constant headache. "...keeping it in tune and running smoothly was such a never-ending process that when it was eventually stolen...I didn't bother to replace it," he writes. I feel the same way about my bike, although I don't want it stolen. At the moment, however, my bike uses only eight of it's 16 gears and has a faulty front brake. I can't remember the last time everything was running smoothly. It is, as Byrne says, a constant headache.

He is also right about helmets. They are 'notoriously uncool-looking'. He's tried other headgear, such as a baseball batter's helmet and an English riding helmet (I assume he means horseriding). He's even decorated his helmets and once tied a raccoon's tail to the back.

Proof that Byrne would be more than welcomed on a NoVisibleLycra ride at any time comes with his remarks about Spandex (Lycra). Byrne prefers semi-baggy shorts with a crotch pad. "We guys have read about bikes and the prostate," he writes, claiming that 'only once in a rare while' has he ever experienced what he calls the freaky feeling of numb nuts. David, that's why I bought the Spongy Wonder bicycle saddle – it also negates the need to wear Lycra cycling shorts.

Outside the garden is wet and dripping with rain and it looks as if the rain is here to stay, at least for today. I'd planned to visit the Peaslake Fayre near Guildford and will probably still go as the British tend to 'carry on regardless' and won't let a spot of rain get in the way of Morris dancing and tug-o-war competitions. That said, plans keep changing. We might drive to the south coast, we might simply go to Croydon. Who knows what the day will bring?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Bank Holiday Weekend – the Tatsfield Bus Stop and then the Village

Saturday was a little on the cool side when I left the house around 0700hrs. The skies were a greyish colour, but there were blue skies poking through as I pedalled along Ellenbridge Road en route to Warlingham Green to meet Andy. While we'd talked about riding to Bletchingley, we went instead to the Tatsfield bus stop where we met and chatted with Dawes Galaxy. No photographs were taken.

The Old Ship, Tatsfield, has been given a coat of paint and some galleons
On Sunday there was plenty of evidence that it had rained heavily during the night – there were puddles and a general gloom in the air and signs of rain and dampness everywhere. I texted Andy to say it might be best sticking to a conventional route rather than branching out and being caught in the rain. We opted for Tatsfield village and rode leisurely along the 269 towards Botley Hill seeing nothing of yesterday morning's propellor-powered hang gliders.

The Tatsfield village noticeboard – complete with colourful floral display
We're almost into September and it's getting towards the time of year when our destination is determined by whether or not the seats will be damp when we arrive. Normally this means we spend a lot of time at the Tatsfield bus stop as it provides shelter from the rain and invariably offers a dry bench on which to sit. Going anywhere else would mean standing up to drink our tea and we can't have that, can we? In fact, with the exception of the bus stop and Tatsfield village, there's very little in the way of shelter at any of our destinations.

Yesterday, as we approached 'our' bus stop on the Approach Road, we spied a Lycra monkey relaxing on our bench. He was waiting for his associates to fix a puncture further back along the road and then he (and them) would be heading for Edenbridge to tackle a few punishing hills, he said. We told him about White Lane across the way from where we were standing and explained how, once a year, there was some kind of time trail. We had attempted the climb and I remember having to dismount half way up, but Andy made it all the way; it's about maintaining momentum and keeping the front wheel on the ground.

Gimme shelter – but not today
The rain held off and we soon found ourselves in Tatsfield village where we noticed that the Old Ship pub had been painted and a couple of galleons had been left on the window sills facing the small green. We decided to sit on the circular wooden table outside the pub rather than use the bus stop – the seats were dry – and soon we spied Dawes Galaxy (odd to see him twice in one weekend). He joined us for a chinwag and told us that, apparently, Tatsfield was the most isolated village inside the M25 – a hefty claim, we thought, but it could be right as there's not much in either direction once you're outside of the village. It's about two to three miles to Westerham in one direction and around three to four miles to Warlingham and there's not much in between. In the other direction there's Biggin Hill, but in between there is nothing but rural lanes – or so says Dawes Galaxy. In fact there's nothing but twisty lanes in the direction of Addington either so, all told, Tatsfield is fairly isolated. As Andy pointed out as we rode towards Botley Hill, it's about 25 to 30 minutes by bike to Warlingham Green and no more than 10 to 15 minutes (downhill) into Westerham.

This Tatsfield restaurant offers a Sunday roast at £25.95 per person
There's an expensive restaurant in Tatsfield (isolated or not the residents won't starve – or perhaps they will when you consider the extortionate prices being charged). I went over and checked out the menu: £25.95 per person for a Sunday roast, meaning that with wine it's probably closer to £30 or more – not my cup of tea, especially when I could pay a visit to my local Waitrose, buy a decent joint of beef and a fine bottle of wine (or two) and feed a few friends for about £30.

One of two model galleons at the Old Ship, Tatsfield
Last night Andy watched Red Bull Rampage, a downhill cycling event characterised by very narrow tracks and almost vertical drops. Apparently those who take part often brag about their injuries – broken backs, bruised livers, damaged spleens, you name it. We wondered what the contestants would make of a leisurely jaunt with NVL to the Tatsfield bus stop. I imagined the scene: Andy and I plus some bleached blond American 'youth' wondering when there would be some 'action'.

"Would you care for a cup of tea, young man?"
"Tea? Haven't you got an energy drink?"
"You're not going to need one. Biscuit?"

We took a few snaps of the pub and the bikes and the galleon in the window and after finishing our tea and biscuits headed out of the village along the Approach Road and then west towards Botley Hill. Andy and I parted company halfway along the 269 and I rode on towards Warlingham Green and further north towards Sanderstead and home.

Our bikes outside the Old Ship, Tatsfield, Kent. Pic: Andy Smith.
It's almost noon but still no rain, but it's been predicted so we're expecting a downpour any second. Time to tidy myself up and see what the rest of the day has in store.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

New rides worth investigating?

Prompted by my own criticism (in the last post) of our rather 'samey' cycling routes, I've been checking out the map and I've found what could be a good ride... to Bletchingley in Surrey. It's east of Redhill and yes, we've been through the place before – on our ride to Hunger's End in Merstham – but there's a pleasant-looking route, accessible through Caterham and via the Warwick Wold Road. In a nutshell it's the way I ride to Redhill via the backroads of Merstham but instead of hanging right where the Warwick Wold Road adjoins the Bletchingley Road, ironically we take the Merstham Road (by turning left) and this eventually becomes the Pendell Road and then either Big Common Lane (a right turn) or Little Common Lane (a left turn) and that leads us on to Castle Street in Bletchingley.

Once beyond the M25 we ride south to Bletchingley
There's some interesting alternatives too. We could, for instance, ride further east along the A25 and take a left turn into North Park Lane, under the M25 and on to some rough tracks where many options lurk. One of the tracks is Roughetts Lane, which I recall from our Hunger's End trips via the challenging Enterdent, or, alternatively there are rough off-road tracks leading into a huge wooded area, the easterly flank of which is known as Fosterdown Wood while the more westerley tip is referred to as Oldpark Shaw and the middle ground, Ten Acre Shaw. There's even a place called Tupwood Scrubs, but I don't think it's a prison! In fact, there is a Tupwood Scrubs Road that runs right through the wooded area and has two exit points, one on to the A22 heading east and another, heading north, on to the B2030 or Godstone Road, which appears to be right in the heart of Caterham, not far from the North Downs Hospital in the CR3 postal district.

Mercers Park near Redhill
The whole area south of central Caterham, flanked in the south by the M25, seems worthy of exploration, mainly because it's all a bit rural, loads of woods and open land and a few interesting off-road tracks. In fact, talking about off-road tracks, there's a track called Green Lane adjoining Roughetts Lane that travels south through fields with nothing on either side of it. The track becomes Church Lane and travels through the middle of Bletchingley Golf Course and emerges in Bletchingley High Street.

The woods south of Caterham en route to Bletchingley
If we really had the time and the inclination, from Bletchingley we could travel east on the A25, through Godstone and out the other side, still on the A25 and then take a left up Flower Lane, which becomes, yes, you guessed it, Gangers Hill – not good if, like me, you're relying on just eight of 16 gears, so probably not worth it and besides, too much A25 for my liking.

For a clearer look at the maps, simply click on them.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

To the churchyard (again)

Things are really getting a little samey. We've kind of locked in to two routes – the bus stop and the churchyard – and we don't seem to be riding anywhere else. It's the usual excuse: time; and let's face it, riding anywhere is better than riding nowhere so perhaps we shouldn't complain, but I can't remember the last time we rode anywhere different, like Westerham or Redhill.

In fact, where Redhill is concerned, I know that on the outskirts of town, near the Watercolour estate, there is a huge lake similar in size and dimensions to another long lost cycling destination, Longford Lake in Chevening, Kent, which used to be an occasional destination (and one of the first rides I embarked upon with Phil back in May 2013 if I recall correctly.

My bike at the churchyard, Sunday 23rd August 2015
The weather was not as pleasant as Saturday (see previous post for details). It was warm but there was a stronger breeze, the trees swayed in the wind and there was more cloud, but no rain until just before noon so we escaped a soaking.

We rode to the churchyard, encountering nothing out of the ordinary en route and when we got there we drank tea and ate BelVita biscuits (three each) as we chatted about the something for nothing culture that has built up over the past 20 years. By that I mean that companies expect far more for nothing these days than in the past. PR companies want photography taken for nothing – "it might give you good exposure to other companies who will pay" – and similarly some publishers expect writers to contribute articles based on the assumption that more work will come out of it. But it rarely does. We both decided that it only works when there is something in it for both parties: a product is reviewed and you get to keep the product; you're sent, say, a top-of-the-range bike to review and obviously you get to ride it. Each party gets something out of the deal. But just to do something unpaid? It's not on and it goes way back to the person who dreamed up the idea of internships on one level and, on another, there's a certain arrogance in trying to get people to work for nothing, not to mention selfishness. The Internet is also to blame (isn't it always?) especially where photographers are concerned. How many times, I wonder, do photographers spy their work being used online without being paid for?

We didn't see anybody else at the churchyard, it was remarkably quiet apart from that motorway hiss I think I mentioned in a previous post. While we used to see people tending graves, or the church staff doing this and that, it's been very desolate the last few times we've been there and that ain't a bad thing.

The ride back was as uneventful as the outward journey. Andy branched off halfway down the 269 and, as usual, I pushed on towards Warlingham and home, getting back some time before 10am.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

To Warlingham Green and then over to mum's...

I'd forgotten that Andy wasn't riding this morning and headed off around 0700hrs, having waved goodbye to Phil who was on his way to Devon for a week's holiday. It was a wonderful day, arguably one of the hottest this summer, with temperatures around 29 degrees Centrigrade.

Warlingham Green, Saturday 22nd August 2015, 0730hrs
As usual my first job was pumping up a deflated tyre – I have a slow puncture but have yet to fix it – then it was smooth-running all the way to the green where the trees sheltered me from the early morning sun as I awaited Andy's arrival, although, oddly, there was no sign of him. I had a distant feeling that he might not be riding so I sent him a text and sure enough, he wasn't going to be there – he was working and, as he rightly pointed out, he'd texted me earlier in the week. Somehow I'd just forgotten. I was getting confused with the week before when he had a dentist appointment on the Saturday, but would be riding Sunday. Hey Ho.

So I'd reached Warlingham Green and I had options: carry on to Botley Hill, the bus stop or the churchyard (where I could drink my tea) or ride to mum's and indulge myself with fruit cake and tea. There was another option: simply ride back home and accept that an eight-miler would suffice. But I chose the ride to mum's and decided to retrace my tracks back along the Limpsfield Road, taking a left turn at Hamsey Green heading down Tithepit Shaw Lane, past Warlingham School and on to the A22 towards Purley. It seemed like I was on the A22 for ages, but I wasn't bothered. There was a warm breeze and light traffic, but reaching the lights at the bottom of Downscourt Road felt good. All I had to do now was negotiate the rather tricky Purley Cross where the A23 and Foxley Lane and the A22 join up, but it wasn't a problem and soon I found myself riding the quiet, tree-lined Foxley Lane heading towards Woodmansterne, but branching off right near the lavender fields and riding towards Carshalton Beeches.

Tea and fruit cake round at mum's...
I sailed along, passing the Village Bakery and Carshalton Beeches railway station and then freewheeled down to the Windsor Castle pub where I hung a left and then a right into Shorts Road, under the railway bridge and then two left turns – on to Westmead Corner and then into Rossdale. Half an hour earlier I'd called mum to reserve a table at what I call the Grandma Claire Tea Rooms (mum's house) and soon I was sitting down, eating fruit cake (two slices) and enjoying a pleasant cup of tea.

Mum's having her fence done, but there are still two bits to be done and at present it's possible to see into next door's garden. It's not an issue and will be fixed very soon.

After two slices of cake it was tempting to ask for more, but I resisted. I also resisted a Kit Kat bar and a biscuit, but I did have a second cup of tea before heading home, riding up Alma Road, turning left on the Carshalton Road and then right up Cambridge Road, turning right at the top, riding a few yards of Carshalton Beeches high street before turning left and riding up hill towards the Village Bakery. I crossed into Crichton Road and then turned left on to Stanley Park Road. I cycled down to the mini roundabout at the bottom of Boundary Road and onwards to the top of Wallington High Street, past Sainsbury's and along the Stafford Road towards The Chase and that industrial estate that weaves its way round to the A23. I turned right and at the lights by the Hilton National hung a left.

The weather was wonderful, like a Texas spring, as I ambled past Rockingham's and the playing fields and then along Hayling Park Road to the A23 where I nipped into Jarvis Road, followed the Upper Selsdon Road towards Carlton Road and then hung a left into Essenden, a right on to West Hill and home. I was trying to work out the mileage – four miles to Warlingham Green then something like 10 miles from the green to mum's and an easy six miles from mum's to Sanderstead – 20 miles in total.

It was 10am when I opened the garage door and parked up the bike and a wonderful day of just lazing about in the back garden beckoned. We went shopping, I bought The Guardian and sat out back reading about all sorts of things: an interview with Jonathan Franzen (which I didn't particularly like, it was just, well, it was nothing to write home about). Then there was Tim Dowling. I like Tim Dowling's column and this week he was writing about his Greek holiday. Holidays are alien territory for me at present. Then there was Rita Ora's Q&A, all good stuff, not forgetting Nicholas Lyndhurst, who was born in Emsworth, Hampshire, discussing family life, and a travel feature about the Greek islands I remember visiting back in the early eighties.

It's gone 7pm (just) and Indiana Jones is on the television. Nobody is watching it. I can hear it, but that's about it. Indiana Jones and something to do with a Crystal Skull. You get the picture, you know the deal, and that's why nobody's watching it. Dinner beckons and then it's Sunday. I often feel as if I'm just sitting around waiting for Monday and another week of work, but there's a bottle of Rosé in the fridge and I've just enjoyed a bottle of London Pride so life ain't all bad. Looking forward to tomorrow's ride, I really am. Cycling is the best tonic there is these days and I sometimes wish I could just keep on riding, at least for a day or two. The weather's so good out there I'd like to camp in the back garden, but not in the huge tent I own, something smaller.

Somebody's switched the channels and now Would I Lie to You? is on. I can hear Rob Brydon's voice.
Hawker Hunter fighter

In the news: a Hawker Hunter vintage fighter jet crashed on the A27 near Shoreham in West Sussex killing a handful of people. The pilot, apparently, survived the crash but is in a serious condition in hospital. More bodies are expected, claim news reports. The plane had been performing at a nearby air show.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Churchyard with Phil and a solo urban ride to mum's...

Phil and Matt at the Churchyard, Saturday 15th August
Despite a pretty awful week in terms of the weather, the weekend proved to be perfect for cycling with sunshine and blue skies from the offset and no sign of any rain. Sunday, on a drive to the south coast, I saw a few clouds gathering north of the downs, but once on the beach it was sunshine all the way.

Andy was absent on both Saturday and Sunday and Phil decided not to go on Sunday, but we ventured out together Saturday morning and headed for the Tatsfield Churchyard the long way. I haven't seen Phil for a while so we had a lot to chat about and decided that the long route via Hesiers Hill and Beddlestead Lane would be best, even if there were a number of Lycra monkeys suddenly appearing right behind us and on one or two occasions causing me to jump, as in they made themselves known at the very last minute.

The playing fields near Purley, Sunday 16th August
The churchyard, as always, was very peaceful and we both enjoyed sipping tea in the early morning sunshine, even if there were no BelVita biscuits courtesy of Andy.

On Sunday I decided to embark upon an urban ride to mum's and set off some time after 7am following the usual urban route past the playing fields and through the industrial estate towards Wallington and then Carshalton where tea and fruit cake awaited me. I rode back through Carshalton High Street and on towards Wallington, but turned left into Demense Road and then retraced my outward route towards The Chase and then through the industrial estate towards the junction by the Aerodrome Hotel and the rather ugly-looking Hilton National, past the playing fields and home.
Empty streets – Sunday morning on the A23 near Purley
I must point out that while at mum's I enjoyed some of her excellent fruit cake, a welcomed treat after riding the bike through the mean suburban streets of Croydon, Wallington and Carshalton and washed down by a couple of mugs of tea. Perfect.

Tea and cake round at mum's, Sunday 16th August
Later in Littlehampton I stumbled across Coastal Cycles, a decent bike shop selling Dutch style bikes from Batavus and Raleigh and an amazing-looking Koga tourer (for £1,800). Coastal Cycles stocks electric bikes, road bikes, Dutch bikes, hybrids, folding bike, trikes, BMXs and scooters and runs a hire service too. Based at 46a Pier Road, Littlehampton, BN17 5LW there is also a website, which is accessible by simply clicking here.