Sunday, 12 August 2018

To the Tatsfield Churchyard...and on Sunday a new off-road route!

I was going to abort Saturday's ride on the basis that I'd just returned from Vienna and needed to lie in, but I woke at 0600hrs and didn't reinstate the ride immediately, but eventually I sent a text to Andy suggesting we met at the green at 0800hrs. He agreed. We decided to head the slow way to the Tatsfield Churchyard and when we got there we chatted about my non-cycling blogposts. Andy says they're very angry and I found myself agreeing. He's right. I get a little tetchy, especially about Brexit, I'm no fan of the Conservative Party and I abhor Boris Johnson with his 'master race' haircut and his dishonest attitude towards politics. Boris thinks only of number one, himself, he wants to be PM and he doesn't give a damn about the country. Oops! There I go again, being angry, so I'll shut up. Andy's right. When I'm out of the country I tend to see it for what it is and it annoys me. Andy also dislikes my bastardisation of the word 'country'. I simply take out the 'o' in protest to the way the place is developing and the fact that Brexit won't improve anything, least of all immigration, one of the key issues that has led to our forthcoming isolation from our neighbours, the Europeans. And let's face it, Brexiteers weren't worried about EU immigration, which is falling and might mean that UK businesses have to increase wages (oh dear!); no, they were concerned about non-EU immigration, which, weirdly, the UK government has always been able to do something about, but has chosen not to do anything. The weird thing is this: I visit these places where trains are clean and run on time, where the roads aren't clogged up with traffic and where there seems to be less violence on the street and I think: why isn't England like this? And then I think of the Conservative Party, austerity, police cuts, rising crime, arseholes like Boris Johnson and it just makes me angry.

Andy and yours truly, in the middle of a field, Sunday12 August 2018
So, we found ourselves at the churchyard and the weather was perfect. Slightly cooler than it has been, but it's perfect weather and what better place than the churchyard to enjoy it? It had rained overnight so our newly found field was out of bounds. On the trudge up to the bench I noticed plenty of dew so anywhere without a bench was out of the question. The weather is now more in line with what it should be in August, but that said, the heatwave is likely to return, according to one of the tabloids.
Not far from the road, which turned out to be the 269...
On Sunday I fully expected it to be raining, but it wasn't. The skies were a bluey grey and it was cooler than yesterday, but it was still fine enough to risk it without taking waterproof clothing. Andy, on the other hand, had brought a hooded top and when he reached the green he took it off because it was too hot.

We considered the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, but I didn't fancy Beddlestead Lane – although I made short work of it yesterday –  so we thought we'd go the stile, which is at the end of an off-road, downhill track off the Washpond Road. Washpond Road is a pleasant country lane with a hill at the far end and fields on either side. It leads on to Beech Road (I think) and the off-road track is on the right hand side as you head towards the top of Hesiers Hill. The track – or 'trail' as I kept calling off-road tracks today (Sunday) – was overgrown with nettles (as Andy discovered to his cost, he was wearing shorts). We hadn't been this way for a long time – November 2013 to be precise – and for a minute I thought we'd taken another off-road track. But I was mistaken, it was the right one, just very overgrown.
The stile that lacks purpose – we headed left of it to eventually find the 269
We threw our bikes over the stile. Well, we didn't throw them, we placed them over the stile and then climbed over ourselves and made our way to 'the stile' – basically a stile that lacks meaning or purpose, it's basically a stile on it's on that doesn't need to be stepped upon to reach the other side. The stile faces a hill and Andy and I felt we had to see if we could reach the top on our bikes. I tried it first and succeeded and Andy followed. We felt justly proud of ourselves having discussed which gear we should select prior to mounting the bikes.

After drinking tea and eating biscuits, we didn't follow the original path back up to the Washpond Road as we knew it would mean walking all the way to the top and Andy couldn't face the nettles. I didn't blame him. Instead we followed the track behind the stile and continued off-road for some time until we reached the road, which turned out to be the 269. We vowed to return next weekend and check out another path that would take us on the other side of the hill opposite the stile, the hill we both proudly climbed.

We rode down the 269, Andy on the road and me following the off-road track (sometimes I don't feel safe on the 269). We parted company at Warlingham Green and headed our own separate ways.

Returning home – where standards are in free fall...

Friday 10th August: Another fine day on the weather front. I woke up in Vienna on a beautiful morning and after checking the computer, I moseyed on down for breakfast – nothing fancy, just muesli, vanilla yoghurt and a mint tea. At Motel One, people were having breakfast outside, but I stayed in and afterwards returned to my room to answer emails and then pack up and check out. I wish I'd packed the night before, showered early and got out in the air, but I slobbed around and eventually checked out with about an hour to spare before I needed to head for the airport.

View from Room 103, Motel One, Vienna
I took a walk around streets I remembered from my previous visits and then took a last look at the fairground, which has a completely different vibe during the day; the rides aren't as colourful, there's less people, but the rides keep going and people continue enjoying themselves. Being there was a bit like taking one last look at the sea as a kid before dad drove us home from a fortnight in Felpham or Middleton-on-Sea and we had a long, hot summer ahead of us playing in the back garden. In the end, I resigned myself to the fact that I needed to get on the move and, sadly, experience the hassles of travelling again.

I went from Messe Prater on line U2 to Praterstern and from there changed to line U1 and rode to the hauptbahnhof where I picked up a train to Vienna airport. On the platform, waiting for the 1412hrs train, I met an employee of OBB, the railway company. He was on his way to catch a flight to Zurich from where he would pick up a train and ride back to Vienna. He was a nice bloke, wearing the company uniform, which was smart, and he told me he'd been working for OBB for eight years. Clearly he enjoyed his job. He spoke about long train journeys to Bucharest and Warsaw and all over Europe and I'll admit that I did envy him. He seemed extremely happy and clearly loved talking about his job as a train manager, in charge of dealing with unruly people, answering passengers' questions, checking tickets and generally being the guy to go to if you needed something. On the way to the airport he pointed out a huge oil refinery on the outskirts of Vienna. Here, he said, the country receives its oil from Russia. He said that Vienna was home to the largest cemetery in Europe and pointed it out. In between the trees I spotted the odd headstone.

Inside Room 103. Eat your heart out, Emin!
When the 1412hrs airport train arrived we parted company, but never shook hands as we simply got carried away in the crowd; he was heading for Terminal 3 while I needed Terminal 1. Here at Vienna, security is at the gate, which in a way is good as that whole tedious process is broken up somewhat. There's passport control and then nothing until just before you fly. I headed towards gate D22 where I discovered my flight was delayed, it turned out considerably delayed. Initially, though, just 20 minutes, so I sat in the restaurant close to the gate and ordered a chicken pannini and a mint tea. Once I'd boarded the plane we had to sit there for an hour waiting for 'our slot' to land at Heathrow. But eventually we took off and there was a lot of cloud. The seat next to me on the flight was vacant so I could spread out a little bit, which was good. I read a bit of my book, Don't Skip Out on Me by Willy Vlautin, but spent most of the time looking out the window at the clouds below. Eventually the high cloud cleared and the picture outside the window was the same as always: cotton wool cloud below and blue skies above. It was a pleasant flight as I was in seat 12a, an exit row, so I had more leg room too.

My phone ran out of power, which was annoying. On arrival at Heathrow T3 I found a Caffe Nero, ordered a teacake and a mint tea and sat there waiting for the phone to charge, but it didn't – the plugs weren't working. I was, after all, back in the UK where standards have dropped severely and were as nothing when compared to those in Austria. From a place where trains run on time and are spotless clean to a place were train carriages have a liberal sprinkling of crumbs and fast food wrappers on the floors and seats. From a place where people are well-dressed and smart to a place where people shuffle along in jeans and trainers and wear bleak colours; from a place where train travel is relatively cheap to a place where it costs £270 to travel to and from London to Liverpool – thanks to Virgin's old beardy. I could go on but I won't. Well, alright, I will go on. How about this: I've been wearing white shirts all week, wandering around Austrian cities and they've remained spotless clean. I was in London for no more than 30 minutes and a I found a grey stripe of dirt running from one end of my left sleeve to the other. Why? Because I was back in the UK.

Did you know that the healthiest city in the world is Amsterdam followed by Oslo? Me neither, but guess what, London doesn't make the top 25. Click here for more. Interesting to note how most of the cities in the top 25 are in Europe. One, Mangalore, is in Southern India, it came 24th. There are others outside of Europe, but not many. Wellington in New Zealand and Perth in Western Australia both made the list and were high up.

In the end, having finished my teacake and drank my mint tea I headed home. The weather was cooler than Austria's 35C, but that was the only plus point.

Friday, 10 August 2018

In Vienna – and it's still sweltering hot

Thursday 9th August: I probably woke up in the night, but again I remained in bed and got up around 0600hrs. I had to pack and check out of the Park Inn by Radisson and have breakfast, not necessarily in that order, and then my aim, after yesterday, was to avoid the heat. It's virtually impossible to keep out of the sun, but I'll do my best.
At Linz station I had another pastry...

After checking out, I left my suitcase at the hotel and headed off in search of a tram to a place called Plus City; it's a huge shopping mall in a place called Leonding on the outskirts of Linz. I needed to board tram 3 or 4, and number 4 arrived. I had a business appointment close to the mall, which culminated in lunch at L'Osteria back at Plus City. As I write this, coincidentally, I am sitting in L'Osteria in Vienna, close to the fairground. Between my lunch at Plus City and now I've travelled by train from Linz to Vienna. First I took a tram from Plus City to Linz, then, after a brief walk back to the hotel to retrieve my suitcase and freshly dry-cleaned shirts, three of them, I re-packed my suitcase to accommodate the shirts and then headed for the tram again. The tram took me to the hauptbahnhof (railway station) and there I purchased a ticket to Vienna. I was scheduled to ride the 1616hrs, which, uncharacteristically for Austria, was delayed, but only by 15 minutes.

It doesn't matter where in the world I go, there's no escaping people these days; they're everywhere and they're always on trains, so the chance of a seat alone was out of the question and it was very hot, but the train was air-conditioned so all was well. I considered upgrading to first class but in the end I contented myself with the usual pastime of reading the news on my mobile phone, reading my book –Willy Vlautin's latest, Don't Skip Out on Me – and looking out of the window at the passing scenery. I was sharing a table with an Indian gentleman and his wife. He was doing something on a Lenovo lap top, she was just sitting there looking out of the window, like I was. It was a pleasant enough journey and now I'm in Vienna. But once I'd arrived at the main station I tried (successfully) to remember how to get to my favourite hotel, which is Motel One, just outside of Messe Prater metro station; and no, that's not why it's called, in fact it isn't called Metro One, it's called Motel One, I'm losing my marbles because it's hot and sweaty everywhere – 35 degrees today, so my shirt is sticking to my back, you know what I'm saying.

Arriving at Vienna Hauptbahnhof, Wednesday 9 August 2018

I took the U1 line to Praterstern and changed on to the U2 line for one stop to Messe Prater. Then it was a case of remembering whether to take the Messe or Prater exit. I correctly chose the latter and within minutes I was checked in and making my way to room 103 on the first floor.

A new (and scary) ride at the fairground: I watched but never bought a ticket...
As far as I can tell, based on three previous stays at Motel One Messe Prater, all the rooms are identical and I always have a few niggly problems. When I first stayed here in June last year – arguably my best ever business trip thanks to a bike, good weather and a generally pleasant vibe – I had great difficulty finding the switch to the bedside lamps, which were poised over the pillows of the bed. At one stage, I considered dismantling the lights, but in the end I resorted to calling the girl on reception, who came to my room and pointed out the switches. I felt extremely stupid. I mean, I could have simply pulled the keycard from the socket by the door and plunged the room into total darkness, but that would have meant losing control and I don't like losing control at the best of times. I panic sometimes when taking off a jumper and it gets stuck with me still inside it, so being in a dark room without the means to turn on the bedside lamp was out of the question.

I know how he feels...
On my second visit last December, I found the desk was too far away from the power sockets on the other side of the room and had to re-arrange the furniture accordingly. This must have happened on my first visit too, but I can't remember. It's certainly happened this time round, on my third visit, as I've just re-arranged things to make it possible to use my lap top on the desk. In fact, talking of my third visit, this visit,  I was a little miffed that the girl on the front desk didn't provide me with the username and password for the WiFi. There are no phones in the rooms, so you have to call the hotel's main number to reach the reception desk using your mobile phone (the general assumption is that everybody has a mobile phone these days). Or, of course, go downstairs and ask for the username and password in person, which is what I did. Mildly inconvenient? Of course it was. Finally, my favourite part of the Motel One experience – the tropical fish screensaver on the wall-mounted television – wasn't quite right. The picture and the captivating music, which is playing as I write this, keeps breaking up, turning what was a pleasant dream, the whole basis of my love for this particular Motel One, into a kind of mild nightmare; it's as if the horrors of life are always there, in the shadows, hiding under the surface, like a menacing shark below thin ice, the thin membrane of happiness we're all led to believe is the mainstay of our short lives when, in reality, it's little more than false hopes masquerading as happy permanence in an otherwise uncertain world. But dreams are there to be broken, just like the rules, and for that reason, never try to recreate past happiness and never try to meet your heroes because all that happens is you break through the ice and see everything for what it is – and it's not good. The key to survival is to keep dreaming.
Another new attraction at the fairground...

I took a walk through the fairground, checking out a scary new ride and saying no, never, not in a million years. I like walking through fairgrounds, but I'm not keen on the rides, apart from the tame ones, like the Dodgems. I made my way to L'Osteria – my fourth visit in under a year, possibly even my fifth as I might have come here for lunch and dinner on a previous trip, I can't remember. This is, however, my second visit in one day, having already had lunch at L'Osteria in Plus City, Leonding, where I had a wonderful (and very large) pizza. I didn't fancy another huge pizza so I opted for mushroom risotto, a Crostino and two small bottles of still mineral water. Now I must get the check, pay up and head back through the fairground, past all the colourful but scary rides to Motel One and hopefully a good night's sleep.

When I got back I switched on the television and tried to watch a movie featuring Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone and James Woods, not sure what it was called, but it was pretty good, even dubbed over in German. But I got bored, switched it off and went to sleep.
The starkness of a Motel One corridor...

And now it's Friday morning. I fly back today, at 1540hrs. I need to check out of here at noon and then make my way to the airport and my flight home to the Isle of Cunts.

Outside of my hotel room the sun is shining and I can hear the sound of children playing in a nearby school playground. That strange, haunting music and the tropical fish are just over my left shoulder and I'm sitting at the desk, which I moved from it's original position to the wall next to the bed. I can also hear distant screams from the fairground.

Time to sign off and get on with the business of getting home.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

In Linz – and it's really hot here...

The Danube, Wednesday 8th August, 7pm...
Wednesday 8th August: I always wake up too early and this morning it was 0300hrs. I knew this because I heard the church clock chime three times. As always, the temptation was to get up, but I resisted and simply stayed put, I stood my ground against insomnia, and eventually won through and fell asleep. I woke at 0600hrs to the sound of birds chirping and tweeting, it was as if I was in the Amazon rain forest, but in reality I was in my hotel room in Linz, listening to the sound coming out of my iphone. The sound of exotic birds is a far more pleasant way of waking up than a storming alarm one has to get up and switch off. Eventually, however, when suitably accustomed to 'being awake' – which doesn't take me long – I got up and switched it off. I then spent an hour typing up my notes from yesterday (see yesterday's post for said notes) and then I headed downstairs to the hotel's restaurant for breakfast.

I can't say I was impressed by breakfast. I had a peppermint tea, Ronnefeldt, in a good-sized mug with a colourful handle (which I later noticed was the hotel's motif and could be found on all the hotel room doors). I bring up the subject of mugs and cups because in a lot of hotels the mug (or cup) is always too small to really enjoy and I find myself stuffing the teabag into the mug or cup and not really enjoying the end result. Well, not at the Park Inn by Radisson. I had a proper mug with a coloured handle and believe me, it made a big difference to my day. But the rest of the breakfast was disappointing and it cost me 18 Euros (12 Euros if I go and book for tomorrow morning at reception when I finish breakfast today).

The main square, Wednesday 8th August
The breakfast room is a narrow space with a long bar on the right hand side and seating (some of it high) on the left. The food on offer stretches the length of the bar and beyond and consists of the usual suspects: there's the cooked breakfast of fried egg, sausage and beans, and there's the cereals, there's a few cheeses and pastries, fruit juices and fresh fruit as well as tinned, but it all looks a little tired and not very inviting. As a result, I've only had a bowl of muesli with added seeds plus a fried egg and two smallish sausages. It's not as relaxing as I had expected, put it that way, and the shape of the room means there's a bit of walking involved too and we all know the effort involved in that first thing in the morning: get a bowl of cereal, walk back to the table, go back to the food display, choose something else and walk back again – there's a lot of tooing and fro-ing and I've definitely picked the wrong seat, the farthest away from the action, so to speak. The other alternative, of course, is to see how much you can stack up in both hands, but that often ends in disaster, with the whole lot hitting the floor with a crash, other guests being splashed by falling orange juice and having their trousers ruined by a helping of baked beans or some raspberry yoghurt. On this occasion, of course, I had clearly selected the wrong seat – but any exercise is good, so do I care? No, of course not.

Note the lack of traffic. Nice isn't it?
However, I'll take back what I said about the fresh fruit as they've replenished it and the new batch looks bright and colourful and worth eating. There's also some broken up cookies so I've taken a few chunks, poured myself a second mint tea and now I'm relatively happy, although perhaps the cookie was a bridge too far. I wish I knew where I could buy Ronnefeldt teas. Peppermint in German is 'pfefferminze'.

It's another fine day outside. There's a hazy early morning sun and I feel the need for a walk after that cookie and 'the full Austrian' even if I did have no more than a fried egg and two small sausages. A walk will sort it out.

Or will a walk sort anything out? It appears to me that I have a big problem with eating at the moment and the biggest offender is cakes. I can't help myself, especially here in Linz. I weakened at lunch time and then, just now, I weakened again. A mint tea simply wouldn't do, would it? I had to have a little cake with a couple of strawberries on top, I couldn't leave it alone. It can only mean one thing: another walk – but can I walk far enough to burn off the calories? I doubt it, but let's at least try.

Dinner at the Park Inn by Radisson, Linz...
I walked to the river, the Danube, crossed the bridge and kept on walking until the city ran out, past Lentia City (a small shopping mall with more restaurants than shops) and I found myself getting dangerously close to suburbia and normal lives. I turned and walked back, clocking a sign that told me it was hot – 34 degrees C, now that's hot when you consider it was gone 1900hrs.

I crossed back over the bridge and made my way past countless shops before I started to think of dinner. I considered an Italian, but in the end decided to eat in the hotel restaurant: tomato soup, tuna steak with risotto, a small side salad and a couple of alcohol-free wheat beers. All seemed fine with the world – until I got back to my room. Suddenly, I felt hot around the back of my neck, my pulse was up and my head was throbbing and I notice that my entire body was now red and blotchy: my arms, legs, torso, my face, the lot. My stomach was sticking out too, making me appear malnourished like those kids in Africa you see on documentaries or the television news. Heatstroke, or heat exhaustion (I checked online for symptoms). All that walking in 34 deg C heat, what a fool. I went downstairs and bought two large bottles of still mineral water and when I returned to my room I switched the air con on full blast while I guzzled the water. After a short while I started to feel better, my pulse dropped and, miraculously, the red and blotchy skin disappeared completely, although my head ached, which is rare for me as I never get headaches.

This is how I felt the following morning...
I went to bed, having switched the air con back to automatic. While I did wake up at 0300hrs, I remained in bed and fell asleep, waking at 0600hrs. I showered and shaved and brushed my teeth and headed for breakfast: muesli, seeds, mint tea and a small pastry. It's Thursday morning and I feel fine now and I'm beginning to wonder whether it was a heat-related ailment or something else. Perhaps I'd had an allergic reaction to the tuna steak, I don't know, but I feel fine and inclined to have one more mint tea.

I can't say I'm happy with the breakfasts here at the Park Inn by Radisson, but being English, I won't complain, there's no need to because there's nothing wrong, it's just in my head, merely something I see – or think I see – that others wouldn't necessarily bother about: the shape of the space, the vibe, I don't know, but I have an issue with it. I'll probably go on Trip Advisor and try to express my feelings there. Don't get me wrong, it's fine overall, I won't be complaining, but there's something about the way things are set out, something about the space in which the whole experience resides. I'm here early today so the food offering is certainly less tired-looking than it was yesterday, which is a plus point for early risers.

Today I check out and later I'll be heading back to Vienna by train and then to my favourite hotel, Motel One, Messe Prater, which is right next door to this great city's famous fairground with it's Third Man Ferris wheel.

It's another sweltering hot day and I plan to keep out of the sun as I don't want a repeat of last night's nightmare.

Right! Time for another mint tea.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Heading for Linz, Austria...

Tuesday 7th August: I left Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1135hrs, or thereabouts, on a British Airways flight bound for Vienna, a city I love ever since I visited last June (2017) and spent a lot of time riding a bicycle. They're better than taking cabs everywhere and if the weather's good, which it was in June 2017, then there's nothing better.

Awaiting breakfast at Heathrow T3...
I am now on my third visit to this great city, although I must point out that I am currently on a train to Linz, the 1533 to Salzburg and there's a woman across the aisle wearing 'a little black number' who keeps laughing at messages somebody is sending her on a mobile phone.

Outside, the heat of the past few two or three months appears to have eluded Vienna, although I know this not to be true as the whole of Europe has been experiencing the same heatwave as the British. Perhaps it's just that we make more fuss of decent weather. But it's grey out there and the scenery is pretty uninspiring. Outside of the window right now is a huge marshalling yard full of goods wagons, some of them garnished with graffiti.

"You'll ruin your dinner..."
Boredom is behind a great deal of my eating and right now I am considering a snack from the buffet car, which is a couple of coaches behind me, but I don't want to spoil my dinner tonight and I've already fallen foul of that old 'two breakfasts' problem I've been having these past two days. I blame the hot weather and the early sun, which wakes me up at some ungodly hour, forcing me to rise early and eat my usual breakfast – that of multi-seed porridge, blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries and grapes. This morning I was eating at 0500hrs and sipping a decaffeinated tea in a Cath Kidson mug and then later I enjoyed a cheese and ham omelette and a mint tea in The Curator, a restaurant beyond passport control at Heathrow's Terminal 3. It was, I have to say, very pleasant, especially the cubed potatoes, fried to perfection. I suppose most people would call them hash browns.

Breakfast at The Curator, Heathrow T3...
The woman across the aisle has gone and she's been replaced by a girl in denim shorts who is also playing with her mobile phone. We've arrived at Vienna Central, otherwise known as Wien Hauptbahnhof and the coach is slowly filling up, much to my dismay as I wanted to travel in peace, just me and this notepad, but now the murmur of conversation, the sound of babies whining and I find myself longing for a family holiday I might not get until the end of the year. We'll see how things develop on the money front.

There's a man in a black tee-shirt sitting opposite me and he's talking to somebody on his mobile phone in a foreign language. I mean, what do I expect, I'm in a foreign country so why would he speak English and who wants to hear somebody speaking English when they're abroad, not me. He's wearing shorts and spreading himself out as there's nobody sitting directly opposite him. We are sitting diagonally opposite one another, which suits me fine.

The train is on the move again, passing graffiti-covered concrete structures and old tenement buildings with yellow balconies and white satellite dishes on the rooftops. The grey skies are a little depressing because the weather experts are saying today is the last day of the heatwave we've all been enjoying these past three months or more.

Awaiting take-off to Vienna...
Stranger in a strange land
We're now at Wien Meidling and there is somebody sitting  next to me. The man in the black tee-shirt is sitting directly opposite and next to him is a man with a high forehead and glasses wearing a check pattern shirt. Next to me is his friend, or colleague, or casual acquaintance, I don't know and I'm not going to ask. He has strange, curly red hair, not tomato red, but 'red' in the sense of ginger (ish). They too are both talking in a foreign language and I can't understand a word they're saying; that's because I went to a shit school and wasn't taught a foreign language. Not for me French lessons, I was deemed too thick by the authorities. We won't get into my schooling, but let's just say my school was pretty rough. It didn't have a playground, it had an exercise yard. That's my little joke, I've been making it for years and I still find it funny. More to the point is that there was a few pupils who did go on to spend time in prison, although perhaps I'm just making mistakes for my own shortcomings, who knows?

The train is in a tunnel and I can see the reflection of my fellow passengers when I look out of the window. It's just past 1600hrs and I'm longing for my hotel room at Linz. The man in the black tee-shirt – who, incidentally, dropped his phone with noisy clatter while playing with it – has now picked it up and answered it. The two men are chatting and looking at something amusing (or interesting) on the man with the high forehead's mobile phone. Everybody, basically, is playing with a mobile phone or talking into one. The high foreheaded man has just handed the phone to the man with the strange-coloured 'ginger' hair. They have shared a joke and now the man in the checked shirt with the high forehead has taken back the phone and is staring at its screen. There is silence except for the man in the black tee-shirt, who is having a conversation on his phone, and a crying baby a few seats away. We're in another tunnel – or the same one – I don't know.

Leaving the country...
The two men have gone and we've arrived at Tullnerfeld, but soon a man arrives with what I think is a tuba, a large one in a huge cylindrical case, which he plonks down in the seat next to me, having first asked if it was alright to do so. I said yes, of course, being the friendly, co-operative sort of person I am and then spent the next part of the journey sitting next to this huge, black thing that towered above me and was obviously far too big to place in the racks above the seats. It was a bit cramped, but fortunately he noticed two vacant seats on the other side of the aisle and moved.

I fell asleep – or rather I kept drifting in and out of sleep – as the train progressed towards Linz. The scenery has changed for the better. Industrial landscapes have been replaced by fields and forests and now, as I write this, the next stop is Linz, my destination. The man in the black tee-shirt has gone and I am the only person left on the table seats.

Arriving in Linz
The weather has changed too; the grey clouds have given way to largely blue skies with a few cotton wool clouds and I guess we're about to arrive at Linz. The baby continues to cry and is now being cuddled by its mother.
What a fantastic pastry at Linz station...
I disembarked and immediately the heat of the sun hit me. I was angry for a reason temporarily obscured until I remembered some of the news items I'd been reading on my mobile phone in between looking out of the window and dozing off. One reason for my anger was my home cuntry, the UK, and the fact that it's just a load of rubbish and made so by its shoddy political classes and their cost-cutting activities across all spheres, especially police cuts, which have led to an escalation in crime. The country is really showing its true colours, thanks to Brexit, and it's true colours are basically a bunch of arrogant racists and bigots led by absolute nobs like Boris Johnson and all the rest of them. I was, however, heartened to hear that another complete and utter fool (in my opinion – and we're all entitled to our opinions) has returned from holiday to find his Somerset home covered in offensive graffiti. Jacob Rees-Mogg wants to take the country back to the 1950s, and probably believes in bringing back hanging too – and the birch. A complete t- -t in other words and I think that word – 't- -t' – was used by those who vandalised his house. There is a God, I remember thinking, as my train approached Linz, from where I am now writing. Not everybody agrees with the far right.

The view from room 416, Park Inn, Linz
And let's not forget that other politician who's being called a racist, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump. What an absolute burk of the highest order – him, Boris Johnson and Geert Wilders, all of whom project far right, racist views and, oddly, all sport the same stupid-looking 'master race' haircuts. Why is that? Another politician with a stupid haircut is Michael Fabricant, another Tory, so 'of the right' but whether he's far right like the rest of those mentioned, I don't know. Trump's been having a go at Le Bron James, an American professional basketball player, and the word on the street is that Trump calling him stupid is purely because he's black, he's said the same of a CNN anchor, who is also black, prompting the latter to speak his mind and call out Trump for the racist he might well be.

Boring, yes, but it's room 416 – very pleasant
If I could leave the UK I would. It's a truly awful country – aud it's getting worse. But I can't leave, unfortunately, for all the usual reasons. Right now, however, I'm in Austria where everything is lovely and the trains run on time. I've stopped at Resch & Frisch on Linz railway station for a rare cappuccino and one of the best pastries I've ever tasted. When it comes to pastries, you can't beat the Austrians and the Germans, or any European nation for that matter. And to think there's only 22 miles of the English Channel separating mainland Europe from the UK.

No-alcohol beer as I await a Thai red curry
Walking to the hotel
The reason I stopped for a coffee and a pastry is simple: if I can avoid taking a taxi to my hotel I will, so I need to key the hotel's address into my iphone's SatNav to see if the distance is walkable. Then, armed with whatever knowledge the phone throws out, I'll head off to the Park Inn by Radisson where I'm booked for the next two nights. It's a 19-minute walk, so I'd better get moving.

And this is the name of the place where I ate the Thai Red Curry
I had a rough idea of where I was going having stayed in Linz twice before, but the iphone's SatNav provided me with reassurance. It's about a 20-minute walk to the hotel from where I write this and I must say that I'm already very impressed with the Park Inn by Radisson. For a start, there is a restaurant  on the ground floor, so if I don't fancy wandering around town later on I can avoid playing culinary roulette and simply eat something in the hotel restaurant. The bright and breezy receptionist informed me that breakfast was 18 Euros per day, a little pricey, but I like a decent breakfast in the morning (I tend not to eat breakfast at any other time of the day) and, as you know, I have been known to eat two breakfasts, thanks to waking up early in the hot weather.

The check-in was a breeze and I was directed to Room 416, which is on the fourth floor and perfect in every way. The key card is needed to operate the lift, a good security measure, I thought. It's also needed to power the room and has to be placed in a small socket on the wall by the door. The room has two single beds side-by-side, blue and white walls, a safe, a wall-mounted TV, telephone, desk, free WiFi that doesn't require a password, red and blue coat hangers, some unruly, some not, but no wardrobe. There is the obligatory 'modern art' on the wall in the shape of three small squares of coloured canvas about a foot square, a bright red box-style armchair, a small table on which a bottle of mineral water rested (it's gone now and they're going to charge me 3.50 Euros for drinking it). There's a hairdryer, but my hair has just been treated to a number three crop so there's little need for one. There isn't, however, an ironing board, which I do need fairly urgently. I'll have to ask for one at reception.

Karunanidhi dies and wild fires
I've just put BBC World on. They're talking about the death of a veteran Indian politician going by the name of Karunanidhi, a social campaigner who worked towards an egalitarian society in Tamil Nadu. He fought for the underdogs, but faced a few corruption charges in his time, but let's just say he's not the bad guy. Perhaps a bit of nepotism here and there, but little else. Karunanidhi died aged 94 and the security forces in Chennai are expecting social unrest. I remember being in India when a leading politician passed away and we were told to remain in the hotel.

Now climate change is being discussed. There's coverage of wild fires in Europe and talk of record temperatures as far north as Finland. And there's a huge wildfire in California too. Scientists are warning of a 'hothouse earth', which, apparently, is irreversible. Trump, of course, doesn't believe in climate change – basically out of greed. He doesn't want anything coming between him and his money-making potential. As long as a businessman can profit, fuck the environment.

One thing I haven't mentioned is the view from the hotel window. It's good. Four floors up, I'm overlooking a small square surrounded on all sides by buildings (apartments, this hotel, even a church). When I arrived and peered out of the window there were a few people sunning themselves and, as I look out now, there are still a few people out there, sitting on wooden benches, chilling out. It's all good.

Going out to eat – should have stayed in!
It was so hot I decided to take a shower before dinner. The shower was easy to use and I could have stayed in there for hours, it was that nice. After drying and dressing I went out and made my first mistake of the day, which was not eating an evening meal in the hotel. Normally I moan about my choice of hotels not having restaurants, forcing me out on the streets to seek sanctuary somewhere nearby. This time round I could have stayed in, but chose to wander. I opted for a kind of Chinese and Thai restaurant and ordered a Thai Red Curry with rice, finishing off with fried banana in a kind of batter. Why do people take something healthy and make it unhealthy? Who needs a deep-fried banana? Well, I suppose I did because I ordered it, ate it and then wished I hadn't bothered. The meal was acceptable, but not in any way award-winning material. You live and learn, I guess, or, as a work colleague once said, "Every day is a school day." They were right.

I'm now back in my room. It's been a long day and I'm going to hit the sack.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

The heat continues as we head to Westerham and find a new route...

The plan was to ride to the lake, but, as always, time is precious and we never seem to have much of it. One of these days we will ride to the lake again, but let's not forget the heat. After last week's rain and cold breezes (last Sunday was truly awful and we aborted) the heat is back with a vengeance and showing no sign of abating. It's oppressively hot. Even sitting in the back garden is not pleasant. It's so hot, everybody is feeling lethargic and as for driving the car, well, it's best avoided, although it's also too hot to 'stay indoors' so the cuntry is caught between a rock and a hard place. Still, the heat is better than the cold, far better, and I would like this weather to continue for as long as possible. It's too hot to mow the lawn, but the grass ain't growing so what's the point? Everybody's debating whether 2018 is hotter than 1976 and I'd throw my hat in the ring and say yes, it is, but let's hope it will continue; if we can get to October I'd be over the moon and might even welcome a proper winter.

Sunday, around 0800hrs, in a field with great views. Pic by Andy Smith.
We met at the green and after debating the lake we decided to get our heads down and head for Westerham. We rode along the 269, something we haven't done for a while and for one good reason: traffic. The ride was good and we arrived in a sunny Westerham and made our way to the green where we found a wooden table and chairs outside the Grasshopper on the Green pub with its England flag betraying, perhaps, a Brexiteer in residence.

On Saturday we rode to Westerham. Pic by Andy Smith.
A woman with an Australian accident – she might have been from New Zealand or even South Africa – approached us and asked if the cycle shop was open. We said it was normally (implying with that word 'normally' that we're always in Westerham when we hardly come here) and she walked over to check. Dressed head to toe in Lycra and accompanied by a dropped bars bicycle, she told us her chain had snapped. Her luck was in: the walked back across the green without her bike and headed for the Costa Coffee shop to sit and wait for her machine to be fixed. We drank tea and munched chocolate BelVita biscuits. It was hot and very very pleasant and we could have sat there for much longer than we did. Neither of us were relishing the ride back up the hill. It's long and tedious and continues all the way to Botley Hill. But, as always, we manage it without too much grief and soon it was time to say goodbye. Andy branched off at The Ridge and I rode back along the off-road path all the way to Warlingham and then continued along the Limpsfield Road towards sunny Sanderstead.

Halfway up the hill Andy stopped to take a photo of his bike leaning against a fence and I took the opportunity to check out the footpath on which his bike was standing. It turned out to be the North Downs Way. It looked perfect for the bikes and we resolved to come back Sunday to check it out. We couldn't figure out where it ended up, but we knew it would have to cross White Lane on its way towards Titsey Hill.
Into the woods and heading for White Lane on Sunday... pic by Andy Smith
Sunday was another hot day and we were running late, but eventually headed off from the green just before 0800hrs. We hit the 269 again and Andy got chatting to a Lycra monkey from Oxted Cycling Club as we rode along. He chatted about 'recovery gels' – something we know nothing about. We prefer to rely upon tea and biscuits.

We passed the bus stop and sailed part way down the hill until we found the footpath and then headed back in the direction of White Lane and Titsey Hill, but off-road. A walker wearing headphones stood in our way. We dinged our bells, but he didn't hear us until the last minute and was then apologetic for holding us up. The path wasn't for bikes. There was a gate ahead of us and we had to lift our bikes over it before we continued. Beyond the gate was a field on a slope and it was fantastic, offering views across the Surrey countryside into Sussex and beyond. We looked down at green fields dotted with trees and the M25 purring quietly before us. In the distance the hazy outline of the South Downs.
Andy's bike in the field and a great view beyond. Pic by Andy Smith.
"This has to be the place to stop for tea," I said, laying the bike on the soft carpet of dried grass and reaching for the flask. Andy agreed and set about taking a photograph of our newly discovered tea stop. It certainly beats the Tatsfield Churchyard as a place to stop on a sunny day. As we sat there admiring the view before us we spotted a hawk gliding through the air, a sight to behold, we thought, taking it all in. After almost a decade of cycling through Northern Kent and Surrey, it was good to think that there was so much still to uncover; and while the path was for walkers and not cyclists, sitting in the field and looking out across Surrey and Kent and Sussex, made us feel good. I could have sat there all morning, but we had to continue along the track, into the woods, to find out where we'd end up. We could clearly see woods and another gate over which to haul the bikes.

The woods were full of protruding roots, which made riding difficult, but we eventually found White Lane and crossed over into more woods. We encountered another gate and some steps that led us down to a track that ran parallel with Titsey Hill. It was full of large tree roots, which were even more difficult to ride on than those previously experienced, but we managed it and soon found ourselves at the roundabout just beyond Botley Hill.

The roots had put us off, but we decided that riding to the field for tea and biscuits and then retracing our steps and rejoining Clarks Lane for the ride home would be best in future. Andy parted at The Ridge and I continued along the 269 using the off-road path, heading home.

It was another oppressively hot day, but who could really complain?

• All pix by Andy Smith.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

A word about the weather...

The English are obsessed with the weather. It's a fact. We always bring it up in conversation, as a kind of ice breaker; it's a bit like football talk, and by that I mean that it's not a real conversation, it's there simply to initiate interaction between two or more people.

When English people talk about good weather, 1976 is normally brought up. In essence, it was the last time we had a really amazing summer. Well, 1976 has a rival and it's called 2018. For the last three months there has been nothing but sunshine and there hasn't been any rain. I checked back on the blog and the last time it rained was in April. It gets better. It's not been just a bit of sunshine, it's been a full-on heatwave. Even last Friday, three months in, the papers talked about 'furnace Friday', although, ironically, 'furnace Friday' turned out to be the day the good weather broke up, there were rain storms forecasted.

As I write this it's 0732hrs on Sunday morning and rain and storms are promised. You might be thinking: Why is he writing his blog? Surely he should be out on his bike, heading towards the green to meet Andy. Well, I was in the process of doing that, but the skies were looking decidedly dodgy and then my mobile rang as I prepared to mount the bike. It was Andy saying that it had started raining over in Caterham. "It's spitting here," I said, looking skyward. We decided to call it a day.

"Next week?"
"Yeah, see you next week."

And I rolled the bike back into the garage and now here I sit, typing in the conservatory. Just a second ago I got up and made myself a slice of bread with Marmite – very tasty, but the weather seemed to have improved and I wondered whether Andy had texted me; he hadn't. So I'm back at the desk, Gilmore Girls is on the television and I'm wondering (just wondering) whether to call Bon and head for Woodmansterne or call Andy and say 'let's re-group on this' although rain and stormy weather is forecasted so it's highly likely that any move to head anywhere will result in a soaking – and if there's one thing we like to avoid, it's a soaking.

Last weekend I meet Bon at Woodmansterne Green, twice, Saturday and Sunday, and, as always, we mooched around and chatted about this and that. I'd brought a flask of hot water and some teabags and we sat in the sunshine enjoying the good weather until it was time to head home.

Andy took this shot at the bottom of Hesiers Hill before we headed up the hill

Yesterday, Andy and I met at the Green and headed for the Tatsfield Bus Stop where we too enjoyed tea and BelVita biscuits while chatting about nothing in particular.

Our bikes prior to riding up Hesiers Hill. Note the parched fields...
The weather has changed. A cool breeze has replaced the extreme heat. It was still a really nice day yesterday. We'd ridden to the bus stop the slow way and we retraced our steps back along Beddlestead Lane towards Hesiers Hill on the way home. We rode up the hill and for the first time in ages I found I was using my gears properly. I'd changed down into the lowest possible gear as I rode along Beddlestead, which meant that I didn't faff around at the foot of the hill and rode up with relative ease, stopping at the top and chatting briefly with Andy before we both followed the country lanes round to Warlingham. We parted at the green. Andy rode to Caterham and I followed the Limpsfield Road to Sanderstead, sailing down Church Way, hanging a right on Morley, a left on Southcote and a right on Ellenbridge.

Parched fields at the bottom of Hesiers Hill
The good weather hasn't left the building, that's the important thing. It's going to hot up during the week and will reach 29 degrees C mid-week. But we've had temperatures in the high 30s. It is, quite simply, a rival to 1976 and might possibly beat it, but not if today is anything to go by; it's cold outside, and blustery too.

Not that anybody takes any notice...
We're riding again next week unless I pluck up the courage to go out later, which I might. Things have brightened up... or perhaps they haven't. I was in the kitchen, making scrambled eggs, and it was dull and raining so I've come back to the computer to say so. In fact, I can hear the rain on the conservatory roof. We'd have been soaked through and cold had we gone out, so I'm really glad we stayed in.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Leaving Dublin for London Gatwick ...

I went in search of gate 414 where my return flight awaited me. I'd been fortunate enough to get a window seat – seat 1a no less – and fuelled with childish excitement I made my way to the gate, realising as I walked that I totally understood the notion of a so-called 'United States of Europe'. It might sound a little daft, but whenever I find myself in the USA I quite enjoy walking around, say, Chicago O'Hare airport while waiting for a connecting flight to somewhere like Pittsburgh or Cleveland. As I stroll along, I like passing the departure gates and looking at various destinations: Grand Rapids, Sioux Falls, Cedar Rapids, Charlotte, Baton Rouge – it goes on and on – and normally, sitting on a chair waiting patiently for a flight is a stereotypical American, wearing cowboy boots, Levis, a Harley Davidson tee-shirt and so on. I find myself looking at these people with their peculiar forms of 'being American' and thinking what a diverse, massive country this is, made up of many states, all of which are very different from one another; and then I find myself wanting to spend a lot more time in this great country, checking out the various states, seeing what they have to offer, driving from one to the other – where else in the world can I do this, I might ask myself. And then it would twig: why, right on my own doorstep, of course, that's where! Now, as I walked towards gate 414 I passed many other gates: Dusseldorf; Corfu, Munich; Paris, Zagreb, Budapest, you name it – the United States of Europe where I could, should I so choose to, fly or drive or take the train to visit these places. Who needs the USA to travel great distances without really leaving 'home'?

But then my brow furrowed as I realised that the United Kingdom (somehow even the name of the cuntry seems wrong these days) was on its way out of Europe on a road towards isolation, no longer part of the whole, but a small island off the mainland, a place not really liked by the Europeans, a place full of bigoted old people and men with tattoos on their calves, with an inflated idea of their own importance, a place where Europeans think twice before they order a steak sandwich or a roast chicken dinner because the beef might be hormone-injected and the chicken washed with chlorine. The United Kingdom will become a place where Europeans are classed as 'other countries' rather than the EU when they are processed by British immigration officials at passport control. And when we journey into Europe, of course, we too will find ourselves queuing in the line reading 'other countries', no longer part of things, no longer European.

Is it just me?
Is it just me? I wonder how many times I've asked that question? Is it just me or is it impossible to find a quiet and deserted restroom at an airport, somewhere without the sound of hot air driers or somebody else in the next cubicle making an unappetising noise – and a considerably more unappetising smell. I can wander for miles at some airports, past lonely and unoccupied departure gates in search of a toilet and when I find one, there's loads of people making a noise and being generally unpleasant. It's not like a hotel where, if you look hard enough, you can stumble upon an oasis of calm with cubicles sporting solid wood doors, sturdy locks and no gaps in the adjoining walls where the shoes and scrunched up trousers of an unwanted neighbour are revealed.

Posh hotel toilets with piped musak and a not a soul in sight, a place to relax and meditate and do what comes naturally – ideal if you're trying to avoid a know-all bastard who won't stop talking. But no, not at an airport. Airports are noisy, crowded places full of people pulling suitcases behind them. Sometimes it might be possible to find an area of calm, a deserted gate, a place to stretch out away from the madding crowds, but it's the exception, not the rule.

The best part of any airport is the restaurants, the eateries, the places where you can enjoy a few moments of peace nursing a peppermint tea and a Danish pastry or, as I enjoyed at Dublin airport prior to departure, a blood orange tea and a scone. Very tasty and I was able to eavesdrop on the know-all and the stooge (see previous post).

Back in the country...
I'm now in the plane and we're about to land at London Gatwick. Outside the patchwork quilt of green and brown fields, lakes and ponds and a landscape familiar to me – that of country lanes and small villages – similar if not the very same places that I encounter on my weekly rides with Andy at the weekends. The hot summer has left many fields parched and brown. I look out to see if I can spot any familiar landmarks. There are plenty of country houses, a racetrack, lakes, long-term car parks as the runway looms, trees like florets of brocolli, cars, the M23, more car parks, woods, the railway line, other planes, a wind sock and we're on the ground at 1855hrs. It's hotter here than in Dublin, there's less cloud and a lovely hazy evening sunshine.

The plane is making it's way to the terminal building, past the control tower. I can see plenty of white and orange easyJet aircraft parked up or making their way towards the runway, plenty of staircases on wheels leading nowhere, and vast expanses of tarmac with arrows, yellow arrows, pointing at, hold on, pointing at those staircases, meaning just one thing: a bus to the terminal building! Or maybe not, we're still on the move, being chased by an electric airport vehicle with the number 184 emblazoned on its sides. No, it's going to be a jetty and a terminal building. Phew! We've arrived, the plane has stopped and it's time to go.

But no, I was mistaken. A short walk through the tunnel didn't lead to the carpeted comfort of the terminal building, it led to a concrete staircase and an awaiting bus, which took us to baggage reclaim. I was told off by security for taking photographs (see below).

The bus from plane to terminal building 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

At Dublin airport...

Don't you hate know-alls? Boring bastards aren't they? Always putting forward their view on some subject or other – normally politics, but it could be anything; let's face it, that's why they're called 'know-alls'. And there's always some bored individual on the receiving end, saying very little, nodding occasionally.

"So, somebody needs to do an analysis...". Yeah! How about you get your sorry arse over there and buy me a cake? Analyse that! Anything as long as I don't have to listen to your rubbish any longer. You know the sort: out comes their smart phone as they consult some figures and pretend to be the font of all knowledge, when really they're just a font.

I'm sitting at a table on the flight side of Dublin airport awaiting a plane – the 1735 to London Gatwick Airport – and not more than a few yards away from me is a know-all and his pitiful stooge who, as I write this, is looking at his mobile phone in a vain effort to stop the know-all opposite him from pontificating.
Dublin airport

"I heard Richard Branson saying that...". Why does old beardy get a mention? "The stats are all published. If you come to Canada from Syria... I think they should stay in poverty...they shouldn't have luxury, they need to contribute, like they do in Barbados, they can serve tables..." He's really going on and on and on and the stooge hasn't got a word in yet. "So you don't have to have a 20 hours per week day job... so maybe Brexit is something that should happen. You can't blame everything on Brexit." [Try me!].

"Four years! 480 million." He's talking sewage problems I think, debt problems too. "You guys need to find 75 million. I just don't know what she's gonna charge." Percentages are flying all over the place and the stooge hasn't got a clue what this know-all is talking about. He (the know-all) is wearing a cheap open neck shirt, his phone and his glasses are on the table in front of him, his suitcase and suit jacket opposite – the former resting against a chair, the latter on the back of the same chair, which is next to the stooge who sits diagonally across from the know-all.

When there's silence it's because he, the know-all, is looking at his phone. Both of them are doing that right this minute, looking at their phones, and I pity the stooge if he's sharing a transatlantic flight with this bozo as the know-all probably has plenty to say about air travel, probably talks during take-off, what a nodule!

The stooge has gone to the restrooms and he's left the know-all alone with his phone, no doubt he's boning up on some shite to unload on the stooge when he returns from the toilet. I bet he's gone to a cubicle for a bit of relaxation ahead of the next onslaught.

"Hi, it's B----." The know-all is on the phone and his name is B----. "Don't worry, the guy was so insistent... alright, that's good, man, thanks for everything, I'll talk to you later." And silence. The stooge has yet to return. He's probably still sitting fully clothed in a cubicle, getting some much-needed peace and quiet and is considering flushing the toilet and coming back out. He knows he has to pull the flush – or press the flush – and he'll have to wash his hands too, even though he hasn't taken a dump or pointed Percy at the porcelain. He has to go through the motions to legitimise his stay in the cubicle otherwise people might think he's strange, they might call security. "Hey! There's a guy in one of the cubicles, he hasn't even taken his trousers down, what's he doing in there if he's not taking a dump? Is he snorting coke? How did he get through security with a load of coke?

The know-all is checking his bags, he's putting on some headphones, earphones actually, those white ones you get free when you buy an iPhone. I wonder what he's listening to? A TED lecture? Or maybe he's playing a game of some sort. The glasses are on and there's no sign of the stooge – perhaps he's being frisked by the police who are going to strip-search him for drugs. The know-all's brow is furrowed, he's looking suspicious, as if he's listening to a voicemail from somebody who hates his fucking guts. "We've got your stooge in the toilet Mr Know-All, now cut the crap, stop boring people to death and we'll release him free of charge." For a minute I thought it might be the stooge. "B----, I'm stuck in the toilet, can you come and rescue me?" But no, it's not. In fact, the stooge has returned and is now playing with his own phone. Silence reigns supreme. The stooge is probably hoping it continues, he doesn't want to be exposed as somebody who doesn't really have a view or an opinion, he just wants to be left alone. So he's got his lap top out – good move, man! Something has been spilt on the table. "Is that a chocolate bar?" asks B---- the know-all.

B---- is short and paunchy and now has his laptop out – a Hewlett Packard PC, typical. He's typing something, probably an email, but the stooge is happy as it means he's not engaging him in a one-way conversation. I'd better go and check out my flight as time is moving on and I don't want to miss it. I think he's said enough, he's quiet so I'm assuming that he's talked himself out or he's replenishing his armoury of arseholery, ready to give the stooge another ear bashing – and I don't want to be around to hear it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Last weekend's cycling...

Wednesday 18th July: I can't believe I didn't knuckle down and get something written about last weekend's cycling, but better late than never. That said, it's only Wednesday (I keep thinking it's Friday). Anyway, last weekend: it was, of course, wonderful weather. There's been nothing but hot sun for the last two months, although whether it's a better summer than 1976 is debatable, it's not far off.

I'm no Bill Oddie, but I think it's a heron...
I didn't ride on Saturday out of general confusion. For some reason I thought Andy wouldn't be riding so I aborted, expecting Andy to come back and say he wasn't going, but he didn't, although perhaps I should have texted him with the question: are you cycling tomorrow? Jon overslept because of the late tennis match with Nadal and the Serbian guy whose name I simply cannot spell, but it begins with a D and ends with 'vic'. Something like Djockovic (I'd be amazed if that's right).

Sunday we met at the green as usual and decided to head for the churchyard, always a good choice on a hot day. When we got there we chilled. Mint tea and biscuits for me and normal black tea and biscuits for Andy. We never saw anybody else, not even the racist from the other week, and eventually it was time to reluctantly head back.

Andy said goodbye at the Ridge and I rode along the off-road path on the 269 all the way to Warlingham before rejoining the road, circumnavigating the green and riding along the Limpsfield road to Sanderstead.

The pond was in full bloom with reeds and all sorts and there was a heron standing proudly in the middle. I took a photo and then headed down Church Way to enjoy the rest of my day.