Thursday, 19 July 2018

At Dublin airport...

Don't you hate fucking 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 bastard 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.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

What's going on is so obvious, but nobody seems to see it!

Let's start with the obvious first fact: Donald Trump, like Boris Johnson, is a complete and utter arse. Everybody knows that. He counts the likes of jailed Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan as friends, three people who, like Trump, are, in many people's opinions, complete and utter arses, not the sort of people you would in anyway trust to run the cuntry.

Brexit is our equivalent of Trump, it's brought all the closet racists out of the woodwork and out of the Tory party. A lot of the people I know who are Tories, not all of them, but a lot of them, have often let slip mildly racist views and now that we have Brexit, well, it's out there, it's being almost legitimised. Trump doesn't like Sadiq Khan for one reason: he's a Muslim.

So Trump is in the UK as I write this and he's been talking to the Sun newspaper (a Rupert Murdoch paper, make of that what you will). He says that the deal Theresa May has struck with the EU will make striking a trade deal with the US difficult if not impossible. I wonder why? Well, the EU has very strict rules on all sorts of things, mainly to keep its citizens in good health. It doesn't want us to eat hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken, but Trump doesn't give a shit about us, he just wants our money. Remember: never trust a businessman. Imagine if Alan Sugar was our Prime Minister. How awful would that be!

Trump doesn't have our interests at heart, let's not forget that. He wants a hard Brexit, he wants us in a weak position so he can offload his beef and chicken (and other goods) on our shores so of course he says May's deal will kill any deal with the US. He knows that the EU doesn't want his goods, but he also knows that if we are out of the EU and desperate for a trade deal, he can offload all his stuff without any worries about the EU. We would be so desperate, we'd sign on the dotted line immediately.
Little did she know he'd already stabbed her in the back...

Trump thinks that Bozo Johnson would make a good Prime Minister. What? The man is a complete buffoon who should never have been in government let alone Foreign Secretary. With his stupid haircut (all done for effect) and his affected bumbling manner, the man is, like Trump, completely unfit for a political career.

Every day I find it quite unbelievable that we've allowed all this to happen. Talk about the lunatics taking over the asylum. Suddenly they've all come to the fore: Nigel Farage, Johnson, Liam Fox, the laughable Jacob Rees-Mogg, all of them are complete and utter arses in my humble opinion and it amazes me how nobody gets it. 

The worse thing is this: I think he'll get a second term. Imagine that: Trump gets a second term! How fucking terrible will that be? And in this country I'm guessing we'll leave the EU without a deal and then in will flow Trumps beef and chicken. Sadly there's no opposition to speak of. The alternative is Jeremy Corbyn. Sadder still is I have no Irish ancestry, I'm British through and through so I can't even change my nationality.

So, here's my predictions: Trump will run a second term and the UK will leave the EU without a deal. Despicable situation. If I could leave the cuntry, I would.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Sunday – to the churchyard!

It's funny, but ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, 'closet racists' have felt that it's sort of 'okay' to test the water with fellow Englishmen, just to see, perhaps, if we're all like-minded when it comes to the 'darkies' or, as I recently experienced while in the back of a minicab, those Muslim 'pieces of stool'. People are prepared to lay their cards on the table, 'get it out there', put their hands on their heart – whatever. I can't say I expected it in, of all places, a churchyard, but it's alive and well there too, mark my words. It started innocently enough with an exchange of pleasantries along the lines of 'come far?' but then subtely moved forward. "We get a lot of cycling clubs going through the village." Fine. "And it's amazing how many blacks are taking up the sport." In itself you could argue there was nothing racist about the remark, but it was kind of unnecessary and it sort of marked the guy's card a bit: he was clearly concerned, intrigued, surprised that black people enjoy riding bikes and I got the feeling that he wanted a response from us along the lines of 'not content to nick our jobs, they're taking over our sport too'. We said nothing. I think we both knew that it was wrong to lend credence to whatever the guy had in mind. But there was more: he moved to this relatively rural part of Surrey because of (ahem) too many foreigners in the street in Streatham where he lived – again, he expected some kind of response from us, but we smiled politely as we sipped our tea. Well, look, again, it's not racist in the true sense of the word. In fact this guy was, I suppose, your typical Brexiteer and I kind of wished I'd asked him how he voted, but I couldn't be bothered as I think I knew the answer.

Looking south across Surrey and the distant south downs, Sunday 31 July
The weather was amazing as we sat there in the churchyard drinking tea and munching on Belvita biscuits looking out across the fields, beyond the distant rumble of the M25 to the depths of darkest Surrey and Northern Kent. It's been so hot that the grass has turned brown. The skies have been cloudless for weeks and it's ideal cycling weather.

The churchyard – scorched grass and silent headstones 
I'd missed Saturday's ride, but Andy went out and tackled White Lane. We're into riding up steep hills at the moment. Over the past few weeks we've tackled Hesiers Hill on most rides as well as Beddlestead Lane, and it's done us some good, given us strength we never knew we had and made 'normal' riding a little easier. We've resolved to do more and keep up the good work.

Heading home. Andy leaves the churchyard
I've been re-reading One Man and His Bike by Mike Carter, it's still absolutely brilliant and never fails to transport me into Mike's world of rural country lanes and campsites and B&Bs and the open road. I turn to the book for many reasons, one being that I'm between books; another is to lift my spirits, it never fails. For me it's pure escapism and I love it.

As I write this it's 0640hrs on Wednesday 4th July, Independence Day in the USA. Last night England won through to the quarter finals of the World Cup (in Russia). The match, against Columbia, was fairly tough, although England had the upper hand in the first half. Things got a little tougher in the second half, leading to Columbia equalising having prompted a penalty earlier on, which had given England a 1-0 lead. What can I say about Columbia? A bunch of cheating bastards would seem fair. They played appalling football in my opinion and England certainly deserved to win the match. There was no winner after extra time so it went to penalties (not England's strongpoint). Amazingly we won through, much to the cuntry's relief and now we face Sweden, that'll be tough and perhaps this weekend we'll hear those dreaded seven words: England is out of the World Cup. Some say we'll go all the way to the final, it's not out of the question, that's for sure, but let's not count our chickens.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

All this and Platform Zero too...

The trains are getting worse and worse. Alright, generally speaking they're not bad. Now that's how you turn things round in two sentences: the trains are gettting worse to 'they're not bad'. How's that for indecisive? Well, it's true; one minute they're fine and the next they're not. I feel really sorry for anybody using Thameslink at this present time – not 'this present time' as in this very moment, but sort of 'around now', ever since they messed around with the fucking timetables, things haven't been too good on the trains. There's been delays and cancellations, mainly the latter for Thameslink 'customers' – and God, do I hate that word 'customers', as if we have a fucking choice! Customers! We're passengers whether we like it or not, not customers who can pick and choose.

Platform zero at Redhill in Surrey...
What I hate most of all is standing on the platform, waiting. And there's a little display unit hanging down over the platform giving the scheduled time of the train, let's say 0809, and the time it's actually going to arrive, let's say 0811. And it's like this when I arrive and initially I sigh with relief: despite leaving the house late I'm still able to catch my train because the damn thing is late by a few minutes. Fine! But things change. I look up at the display: 'Expected: 0815'. It's getting further away, not nearer! And then I realise what's happening. Perhaps it's the station that's moving, not the train, and as a result, the train is getting further away. If I simply stand on the platform for long enough, the station will arrive at my destination – another station. There will be an almighty crash as concrete clashes with concrete, I'll probably fall over, but at least I'll be at my destination where I can jump off the platform, dust myself down and then watch as my station, Purley Oaks, crunches off towards the south coast, dust and bits of concrete falling by the wayside as it rumbles along, taking my destination station with it, one big mass of concrete and bricks. And then, later, on my return journey, I'll have to get a bus as my station would have crashed into the buffers at Brighton or Bognor Regis or Southampton Central. All over the cuntry there would be piles of broken up concrete as railway stations on the move reach a dead end and find they can travel no further. And meanwhile, the trains are getting further and further away, some of them are on ferries crossing the North Sea, others are heading to Greenland, some are crossing the Atlantic and others are colliding with bulk carriers somewhere on the English Channel.

"Don't jump!"
The train companies, the railway people, Chris Grayling, everybody involved, is taking the piss out of the customers and no more so than at Redhill station. They've gone one step beyond by introducing a Platform Zero. Standing on it makes me feel small, stupid and exploited, it's the train station equivalent of the naughty step, the place you don't want to go, the place you can't believe exists – perhaps it doesn't exist. Platform Zero is a long platform, it can take trains that are so long they're still at their station of origin when they arrive, you could literally get on the train and walk all the way back to Brighton.

No wonder the Samaritans have a sign at the end of most platforms asking suicidal 'customers' to 'talk to us'. Talk to the Samaritans before flinging yourself in front of the train is the message.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Strange dream the result of Supersonic documentary...

Vague memories of strange dreams last night. An old work colleague, the late, great, Brian Cookman, needed a bassist for his band and would I be interested? I told him I couldn't play the bass. The band in question only played six gigs a year, but even six would be a bridge too far for yours truly. Last night I'd been watching Supersonic, a documentary about Oasis, and there was a moment when Guigsy pulled out with nervous exhaustion. I'm assuming that's why I had this dream, although there was more to it and can't remember the details.

Oasis – great band...
The Oasis documentary was fantastic. I'd seen it before, but it's one of those programmes I could watch on continuous loop. I love proper bands that come up the hard way and make it big and that was Oasis. You can't beat Liam Gallagher as a front man and the songs were good too, shame they split up. My favourite Oasis track is Acquiesce, but they're all good. Avid readers will know that I've just finished reading Unknown Pleasures by Peter Hook, bassist with Joy Division and later New Order. Joy Division came up the hard way, but like Oasis they were a bunch of blokes who enjoyed a drink (or two) and were dedicated to the music.

At the end of the Supersonic documentary, Oasis is on stage at Knebworth and Noel Gallagher comments that it was pre-Internet (just) and probably the last time that the world will make a big fuss about a band. Now there's all the boring stuff: the X Factor, digital downloads, rubbish music.

Four paragraphs in and I still can't remember the rest of the dream. It'll come back during the day.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The weather is amazing...

The weather is hot. Very hot. This is summer like it ought to be and, let's be fair, we've been having many amazing weekends of late, just check out the blue skies and sunshine on previous posts.

Andy wasn't riding on Saturday so I headed to Woodmansterne Green to meet Bon. While even Bon said it had been a long time, I'm not sure that it has, but will have to scroll back and find out the last time we were here.

Rockhopper at Woodmansterne Green, Saturday 23 June
I left the house around 0700hrs and headed towards Purley following the same route I take to work in the morning: past Purley Oaks railway station along Norman Road, hanging a right on the Purley Downs Road, under the railway line, crossing the A23 heading towards Pampisford Road, hanging a left, down Foxley Lane, past the smallholdings and then turning left at the roundabout close to the lavender fields.

Bon was there when I arrived and we chatted about our usual subjects: the south coast (Felpham in particular). Incidentally, I took Friday off and drove down there in the heat and later enjoyed a walk along the beachfront – yes, folks, it was a really good weekend. Our other pet subject was Brexit. We're both remainers. My big problem with Brexit is the 'Brexiteers' themselves – or rather the stereotypical 'Brexiteer' (either an old woman with a blue rinse and a copy of the Daily Mail or a shaven-headed tradesman of some sort who, at this moment, probably has England flags on his white van to complement his tattoos and an empty can of Stella in the glove compartment; not that vans have glove compartments – or rather they do, but they're not for gloves).

For me, the chief reason for Brexit was immigration. The aforementioned people wanted to 'take back control' of our borders', which meant just that: "keeping the darkies out". Farage lied about the Turks and spoke of immigrant numbers the size of the population of Newcastle waiting to get in and how they must be stopped. It was all lies and scaremongering, but Farage, Bozo Johnson and Orville (Michael Gove) managed to con these very people into voting leave, which they did, and now we're only a few months from leaving and seemingly the cuntry is being run by faux politicians – stereotypes like Jacob Rees-Mogg and complete idiots like Liam Fox. If we had the vote again, knowing what we know now, we'd never leave, especially now that we know there is no 'special relationship' with the USA and that we'll be isolated from the world. It might take a few years, but there will be job losses. Just remember this: we're not great and we never were; if it wasn't for the Americans we'd all be speaking German.

But there is another view: that a lot of elites were making heaps of money at the expense of the masses and that Brexit was simply the masses getting their own back. I like this perspective and can understand it, so in many ways, while I'm not torn between the leave and remain argument (I genuinely think Brexit is a bad move) there is a part of me that enjoys the populist uprising, I'm even warming to Donald Trump, especially since his historic meeting with Kim Jong un, the leader of North Korea.

The beach at Felpham, West Sussex coast, Friday 22 June
Something else that was getting our goats was hypocrisy. It's everywhere, but never more pronounced in issues surrounding sexuality. Have you noticed how gay people are allowed to make risque remarks in public, but if a normal heterosexual did the same, he or she would be lambasted for doing so. Take gay celebs who present awards shows. Have you noticed how they are free to allude, quite blatantly, to their lewd thoughts about certain people (right down to what they would like to do to them) but if a heterosexual person made a similar comment, let's say "Whoa! Look at the arse on that!" or "He can stoke my mantelpiece whenever he likes" the media would be outraged. At the moment, there's a series of programmes on the BBC about women and it's been called Snatches. Snatch is a rude word for female genitalia, like cock, nob, veiny Mars Bar and so forth, but imagine again the uproar if a programme about men was entitled Bollocks, Cock, Veiny Mars Bars or even Cock and Ball Stories. Again, there would uproar. Why is it that black people are allowed to use the N word, but white people aren't. There are, of course, many examples of hypocrisy. Like why am I pretending I'm bothered when I simply don't give a shit?

Bon and I sat on the wooden bench that was once a tree sipping tea in the heat and soon it was time to head home, Bon to Epsom, me to Sanderstead. I followed the outward route home, taking in some off-road tracks en route and reached home around 1015hrs having riden up western face of West Hill – a piece of piss.

After an early night and a good eight hours sleep I rose around 0600hrs and prepared to meet Andy on the Green. Things went wrong. I couldn't find this, I couldn't find that, but eventually I got my act together, texted Andy that I'd be a little late (my phone had also been out of power and needed to be charged before I could send the text) and jumped on the bike. I felt good about the bike because last week I jet-cleaned it and now it is spotless.

We headed the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, a route we were getting used to, which meant we were getting fitter as a result. As avid readers will know, the slow way is much more strenuous than 'the fast way' along the 269. It's safer too. But there is a payback: Beddlestead Lane, which is one long incline all the way from the bottom of Hesiers Hill to the junction with Clarks Lane. It's hard, but not if you've had eight hours sleep, like I had. There's payback on the return ride too (we've been riding back along Beddlestead Lane too, which is fine because it's all downhill – until you reach Hesiers Hill, which is a true slog, but we never get off the bikes and now, having tackled it a fair bit of late, we're getting fitter as a result and it's becoming easier.

As always, there are nutters around. Yesterday, a Lycra nutter coming down Hesiers on the wrong side of the road nearly hit Andy who was riding in the opposite direction. I couldn't believe the idiocy of this bloke. Watch out for nutters and fly tippers, I thought, remembering a pile of rubbish that had been unceremoniously dumped along Beddlestead.

We parted on the Green and both agreed that the ride had been excellent; and then we went our separate ways. Andy sped off in the direction of Caterham and I headed towards Sanderstead along the Limpsfield Road. As I passed the pond on the so-called Gruffy I was amazed at the size of the reed beds and the other greenery that had taken over the pond. I sailed down Church Way, preparing myself for every sleeping policeman en route. I turned on Morley, turned right on Elmfield, left on Southcote, right on Ellenbridge and right on Barnfield. A sunny day lay ahead of me and I simply couldn't wait.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop and then onwards – to Westerham...

Strange dreams last night, but nothing to do with the weekend's cycling. I was in a foreign country, possibly North Korea. Many people were swimming in a large bay, but there was something wrong with the water: it looked more like the chlorinated water found in a municipal swimming baths. It didn't matter, though, I jumped in and had a swim, it was fine and much needed. Then I found myself in what must have been a ruined or bombed-out building. There were children climbing down from a precarious piece of brickwork. Suddenly, all was gone and I was in my old bedroom at the family home in Sutton. Work colleagues were there, two of them, one male, one female. I was peering into my wardrobe where there was a lot of graffiti, and there was a feeling that somebody else had once occupied the bedroom, somebody who was a bit of a character, a lovable rogue even. It certainly wasn't me. The wall on which the graffiti was written was in a bad state: peeling wallpaper, and I was looking into the space, which, for some reason, had a small, lead-paned window and I began to wonder whether it could have been transformed into a small room. I turned to my colleagues and said I could do with some paint stripper and then, of course, I woke up. It was 0523hrs and daylight was seeping through the patterned curtains.
Westerham green, Sunday 10th June 2018
Having returned late from Poland on Friday night, I enjoyed a lie-in on Saturday morning, but was ready to rock on Sunday. Andy was tired and suggested the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop. The slow way is ideal if we want to chat as we ride along, so off we went, turning left at the roundabout beyond Warlingham Sainsbury's, chatting about the global steel industry and Donald Trump. Trump features a lot in many people's conversations these days. In fact, as I write this (later than normal – I've got a bit of catching up to do) Trump has met with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in Singapore – history in the making.
Westerham green, Sunday 10th June 2018
When we reached the bus stop, we did what we always do: sit and chat while drinking tea and munching biscuits, although I didn't bother with the biscuits so Andy ate mine. I'm addicted to biscuits and I'm trying to kick the habit, but it's hard. It was 0917hrs when I looked at my watch. It was later than we thought so Andy said he'd be heading back via The Ridge, which is just short of Botley Hill. I decided to push on to Westerham alone and rode leisurely down the hill into Kent.

We had no more tea so I could have visited the Tudor Rose, but I didn't have a padlock for the bike so instead I sat on the green, watching classic cars roar past on the A25. There was a group of bikers to my right and they were all kitted out head to foot in leathers. At one stage a team photograph was suggested and they all marched over to Churchill's statue where a cyclist sitting on the grass agreed to take the shot. The bikers marched back to their bikes and roared off along the A25 heading east. I sat there for around 15 minutes and then hit the road, not looking forward to the slow climb up the hill.

The off-road track along the B269...
On the 269 I used the off-road path, which proved annoying as I was constantly ringing my bell to alert joggers or give way to oncoming cyclists, but soon I reached Warlingham Sainsbury's and rejoined the road, riding round the green and along the Limpsfield Road into Sanderstead and then free-wheeling down Church Way towards home.

The weather was amazing – another hot weekend – and I spent most of it in the garden tidying up the edges and drinking tea. Andy's not riding next week so it's down to me to motivate myself. I'll probably ride to mum's on Saturday and possibly Sunday too.

Monday, 11 June 2018

In Warsaw...

I took an early flight out of London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Warsaw. A reasonably pleasant flight, albeit a bit cloudy, although, that said, the cloud was covering the UK only, it seemed. Within minutes of take-off we broke through the clouds and there were blue skies and sunshine above, as always. It's amazing when you think about it, that a lot of the time there's just a thin layer of cloud between the English and the sunshine and we're all below it moaning. I must admit, having spent four days in Warsaw, where temperatures hit 28 degrees and there was little in the way of cloud, that I started to feel very depressed as the plane slowly descended into the murk where Theresa May and the fucking awful Conservative party ruled the cuntry and police cuts mean there's now been 74 knife murders in the capital.
In plane, on tarmac, Heathrow T3, 5th June

Warsaw was a wonderful place. A peaceful, calm city bathed in sunshine and no sense of threat on the streets. People were happy.

Two minutes out of Heathrow T3... blue skies!
The ride from the airport to my hotel, the Sheraton Warsaw, was fairly short and I spent the next two days working and not really seeing a great deal of the city. I wandered with colleagues to the Buddha Indian restaurant, about a ten-minute walk from the hotel, and on day two wandered a little further down the street to Kaiser, a restaurant I discovered on my last visit, which was roughly one year ago.

About to land in Warsaw, Poland...
On Thursday night, with all the work completed I wandered a little further down the street, to the main square at the bottom where we found a kind of hybrid restaurant offering Italian food mainly, but also dishes like wild boar stroganoff, which was alright, but I wished I'd ordered a pizza instead. I'm still off the alcohol: eight months on 28 June, not that I'm counting. I'm really not. I don't think I'll drink alcohol again to be honest. The trouble with not drinking, of course, is that you're always explaining yourself. People think you're not drinking because you're an alcoholic – that's what they want to think, that's what they hope is true, because in the UK people like one upmanship, they like to think they're better than you.

View from room 542, Sheraton Warsaw hotel
Refurbished hotel rooms...
The hotel had given us refurbished rooms. I remember last year they were in the process of refurbishment. Well, now the rooms have been done, they've made a start at any rate, and I had room 542, which was huge. There was a massive double bed (I reckon it would sleep at least half a dozen people comfortably). The bathroom was fantastic: the shower had two showerheads, one attached to the wall and the other detachable. It was possible to switch from one to the other. Unlike in American hotels, where the bathtubs are shallow and easy to step into, here at the Sheraton Warsaw they're higher and, therefore, the job of getting into and out of the tub is a little precarious – and those hard marble edges are not very forgiving, I thought to myself as I clambered in and out of the shower.
Throughout my stay I never watched television, but there was a decent flat screen in front of the bed and over a minibar, which was fully stocked. I had a chunky KitKat but that was it. A fully stocked minibar, as we all know, is a sign that the hotel trusts its guests. Similarly, there were proper coathangers – another sign that the hotel trusts its guests.

Room 542, Sheraton Warsaw Hotel
Friend of the stars!
Last year we shared the hotel with Damon Albarn and Gorillaz, and spotted Mr Albarn sitting outside a Polish restaurant with some members of his band. This year, the hotel played host to the President of Germany. There was something big going on politically. Whenever we were out in the streets there were motorcades whizzing past with noisy police escorts.

Large double bed in room 582 Sheraton Warsaw
The best day of all was Friday (8th June) when we had a free (ish) day. The flight didn't take off until 1825hrs so we didn't need to be at the airport until 1625. Consequently, we moseyed around town in the 28 degree heat, stopping for tea and then lunch and then moseying back to the hotel to await a taxi.
One of many impressive buildings in Warsaw
The flight back was smooth and I stared out of the window as Poland slowly disappeared from view and I was left with nothing but a blue summer haze. As we approached the UK the cloud built up and we seemed to be circling over London for some time before the plane descended through the clouds and landed.
More impressive buildings in Warsaw...
Racist cab driver...
My journey back home from Heathrow wasn't too pleasant. My taxi driver was an out and out racist who kept referring to London Mayor Siddiq Khan as 'that muslim piece of shit' or 'that muslim piece of stool'. For him, Khan was the root of all evil and he relied, as many racists do, on the story that Khan was the son of a bus driver. That fact, he said, was Khan's only reason for being British. I've never heard so much foul-mouthed venom spat from another human being's lips. He wasn't worried about what I might have thought, he just kept up this barrage of abuse. He was angry. An ex-serviceman who was once stationed in Germany and was claiming to have a few holes in his body (the implication being he was shot), but he was 72 now and retired and I figured he wasn't shot by a muslim). Ironically, the taxi company he works for relies upon many immigrants to drive its cabs: Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Eastern Europeans, you name it. It was rare, I thought, to have a British cab driver and highly unfortunate that he happened to be an out and out racist.

It's the Pope!!!
Leaving Warsaw and heading home...
Back at Heathrow T3...

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Wonderful weather, wonderful rides...

Last weekend the weather was perfect so we had two excellent rides, one to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (the slow way there and back); and another ride to Tandridge, a destination we haven't visited for many years.

On Saturday the slow way to the bus stop seemed like a good idea, and because the weather was fine, we ambled along at our own pace, stopping, like last week, to admire the red poppies in the field along Beddlestead Lane. Their colour and number were more intense than last week, prompting us, once again, to get off the bikes and try to take a decent photograph. We really needed to get into the field, but there's a ditch and then a load of thistles so we didn't bother. Instead, we got back on the bikes and chatted as we rode along, occasionally making room for noisy Lycra monkeys.

Instead of BelVita biscuits I enjoyed a banana. I'm trying to give up biscuits and believe me, it's harder than giving up smoking or drinking, but I didn't weaken and after a couple of peppermint teas (I fancied a change) we jumped on the bikes and headed home, going back the way we came and being forced to climb Hesiers Hill in the process. Andy's about to embark upon some kind of hill climb challenge, so the more hills, the better. Hesiers is quite an ordeal, but as long as you're in the right gear (a very low one) then it's simply a case of head down and get on with it.

Church in Tandridge, Surrey – perfect!
We got home at a reasonable hour and there was plenty of work to do in the garden, which is fine on a decent day. I mowed the lawn front and back and spent a lot of time sitting under the umbrella drinking tea – a perfect way to spend a Saturday.

On Sunday we could have quite easily repeated Saturday's ride, but sometimes the thought of Beddlestead Lane makes us yearn for something different. We talked about riding to Oxted, which would have involved the infamous Titsey Hill or going to Flowers Farm in Godstone or even Godstone itself, but I remembered that there was some kind of weekend concert going on at the farm – Godstonebury (geddit? Glastonbury? Godstonebury?) – so we headed instead for a place called Tandridge, which meant following the route for Godstone, down Gangers Lane, but branching off left and taking a steep downhill run (14%) until we crossed over the M25 and then found ourselves on the A25, turning right and then first left on to Jackass Lane.

Prior to reaching the A25, we rode along the winding country lanes, the birds twittering in the trees and the sound of our mountain bike tyres on the tarmac being the only noises breaking the silence of the early morning, a deer crossed the road right in front of us; it was one of those moments to cherish: a wild deer prancing gracefully across the road and into the woods on the other side. Andy managed to capture the moment on his Go-Pro camera, which was great.

We followed the road down to a small green and then turned left and found a church. I can't remember the name of the church, but we found a bench in the churchyard and out came the tea and biscuits. This time I weakened, but with a massive hill ahead of me on the return ride, they were sorely needed.

It was a real Daily Mail, Midsomer Murders sort of place with plenty of well-to-do and filthy rich old people coming out of the church and bidding us a good morning. The thought of the hill delayed our departure, but soon we were on our way, psyching ourselves for the climb to come. And while it wasn't easy, it wasn't difficult either and soon we found ourselves on the country lanes close to Marden Woods and heading towards the Ridge and then Woldingham. We parted at the top of Sline's Oak Road, Andy heading for Caterham, me riding down to Butlers Dene Road where I turned left and then right on to a short gravel track followed by a left back on to Sline's Oak Road. The last hill was the last few yards of Sline's Oak Road, the bit where it joins the 269, where I turned left and headed through Warlingham, along the Limpsfield Road and home.

I arrived home around 1020hrs, put the bike in the garage and got on with the day, which meant more sitting in the garden under the umbrella in the summer sunshine. It was too hot to do any gardening so I simply chilled out and enjoyed the rest of my weekend.