Thursday, 31 December 2009

Puncture footage – the movie!

Video evidence of yours truly fixing a puncture. Sad or what?

There's a date and time on the CD: 0838hrs on 11 November 2008. I'm not sure of exactly where it is, but it looks like the small car park on the road leading up to the roundabout just past the Botley Hill Farm pub, the road on which Mohammed Al Fayed's mansion is located.

Archive puncture footage!

Andy gave me a CD containing one image and a movie – of me fixing a puncture! Enjoy!

Monday, 28 December 2009

December 28th 2009 – the Tatsfield Bus Stop

Andy and I chewing the fat at the bus stop. If you're wondering
what Andy is saying to me, it's "How do you know when its
clicked?" He means the camera's self-timer, of course, and it
clicked just as he turned to speak to me!
Our bikes wedged in the snow.
Freezing cold weather, the car windscreen covered in ice acted as a barometer for me when I peered out of the window around 6am. I sent a text to Andy saying lets meet at 0830hrs rather than 0730hrs as originally planned. He agreed.

The plan was to cycle to Westerham after we agreed to shelve plans to cycle to Boxhill because it was just too far and we all had various commitments. Jon cycled to Woodmansterne Green and we, that is myself and Andy, headed off from Warlingham Green to Westerham, the slow way, but decided to go as far as the bus stop at the top of the road leading to Tatsfield.

After a while we forgot the cold weather and concentrated on the cycling. It was a great day even if it was a little nippy. We reached the bus stop and drank plenty of hot tea and then headed back home. Andy and I parted company at Botley Hill and I soon discovered that the fast way home along the B269 might be a problem: the road was closed. But closed roads never bother cyclists and I passed the 'Road Closed' sign without a care in the world. I figured it must be something to do with ice and on the road and motorists rather than humble cyclists. There was no explanation for the closure and no signs of any accidents along the way either. What was good was having the road free of traffic all the way to Knight's Garden Centre virtually. The B269 can be quite treacherous for cyclists as motorists normally go mad when they see a 'national speed limit applies' sign. The closed road, therefore, was a Godsend.

I met a cyclist training for an attempt at the John O'Groats to the Land's End trip. He was on a Pearson-framed racing bike and had plenty of visible Lycra, but seemed like a really nice bloke. He was on his way towards East Sheen from Westerham. His plan is to cycle 110 miles per day to complete the mammoth cycle. I for one wish him well.

Thought for the day: Sketch-based comedy is a load of rubbish. Little Britain, Catherine Tate, Armstrong and Miller, all they do is come up with a few templates and then repeat them week after week after week. So, take Tate's 'Am I bothered?" sketch or the Armstrong and Miller one about a priceless artefact being broken by a butter-fingered television presenter – they're all the same, just with different scenarios every week. In short, what a load of old tosh! It involves coming up with, say, 10 different end-of-sketch catchphrases and then simply changing the scenario each week – a piece of piss!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

A clean bike! A clean bike! A clean bike!

Well, what do you think? I had to fix the puncture so I thought I'd give the bike a clean too. Doesn't it look great?

Sunday 27 December 2009 – to the green (again!)

We're all smiling because we've been eating home-made mince pies and cereal bars and drinking tea – and probably because we all talked ourselves out of cycling to Box Hill tomorrow!

It would be wrong to say we're getting bored with Woodmansterne Green, we're not, but we are going there quite a lot at the moment. Today, while at the aforementioned destination, we discussed Box Hill as a possible venue for tomorrow but have talked ourselves out of it: miles too far and very time consuming, that was the verdict. It looks like we might be going to Westerham, but who knows? If it rains, we're going nowhere! Rain has been the bane of our lives over the last few runs, even yesterday we got a bit of a soaking and then today there was a light shower on the way home.

For the past God knows how many weeks, I've had a slow puncture (which takes a week to go soft after being pumped up) but today, having left Andy on the return home, I noticed that it had speeded up somewhat. In fact, it was bad enough for me to have to walk the last quarter mile up West Hill and home. It's now fixed and, hopefully, will be the last puncture of the year.

Today on the green it was very festive. I brought along some mince pies and we gathered around the Jean Merrington bench (Jean died in 2007 but, according to the inscription on the bench, she was a tireless campaigner for Woodmansterne and obviously deserved her lasting memorial on the green).

Jon has his own flask AND a rucksack so all we need now is a teapot and oh, how I'm going to provide it! I've seen one in Robert Dyas, lads, so it's only a matter of time.

The weather was good today, much better than yesterday and despite the mild shower as we travelled downhill from the green towards Coulsdon, it was all very pleasant, ie no wet arse!

Anyway, enough of me, time for thought of the day.

Thought of the day: Cindy Crawford – personally, I wouldn't. I'm sure she wouldn't fancy me either but there you go. Equally, I would prefer an early morning cycle in the rain and snow to a bout with either Madonna or Sarah Jessica Parker. Thoughts?

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day 2009 – to Woodmansterne Green

Andy Smith and I at Woodmansterne Green on Boxing Day 2009. We've cycled on Boxing Day before back in 2006 and 2007; in 2008 we were both struck down with colds. Top shot shows the church and, if you look closely, the time. We embarked upon our return journey shortly after this shot was taken.

It was one of those mornings: a bit cloudy in places and signs that it might have rained in the early morning – the ground was damp, but then we had plenty of thawing snow to give the impression of rainfall. The bird bath in the back garden was showing no signs of raindrops, so aborting the cycle was out of the question.

Jon phoned to say he wasn't coming, it being the day of the famous Boxing Day Bash (when the Moggridge family get together over in Carshalton for drinks and food and all the usual family stuff you might expect over the festive season). Bearing in mind that Jon had gone alone to the green last Saturday, in the snow, he has been let off by the No Visible Lycra Committee and besides, we're all meeting up tomorrow on the Green and might even be doing a long distance run on Monday (to Boxhill) although something tells me we won't be doing it, let's see what happens.

Met Andy at the top of Foxley Lane and headed off in mild rain, not enough to get soaked, to Woodmansterne. The rain got a little heavier, but not by much and we took shelter under the gate of the Parish Church where we sipped tea and ate our cereal bars.

Sweeping generalisation for the day: "Drivers of those big Chrysler saloons are invariably fat, triple-chinned 'local' businessmen types (you know, undertakers or builders) in their early sixties."

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

19th and 20th December 2009

Jon at Woodmansterne Green on Sunday 20 December 2009. The camera was low on power and we only managed to get this one shot before it shut up shop for the day. The huge wood carving behind Jon was once a tree and might well have been one of many trees uprooted during the October 1987 hurricanes.

A shed load of snow fell on the UK on December 18th and so began a bout of extremely cold weather. Andy was still feeling under the weather and when I awoke around 8am there were no messages on the mobile suggesting that Jon wouldn't be going either. Outside, the snow that had fallen on Thursday was still there and, to my surprise, Jon did go cycling. I couldn't face it, to be honest, although I admit I felt a little disappointed in myself for not getting out there.

I did go on Sunday, freezing my ears off in the process, and met Jon at Woodmansterne Green. Needless to say I bought a flask of hot water, although Andy's breakfast bar was sorely missed. We chewed the fat about this and that and then headed home, feeling pleased with ourselves for getting off our arses and going cycling in the snow.

While out we called Andy who said he was more than likely going to be fit enough for Boxing Day. Sadly, the snow will be gone as today, Christmas Eve, I note that the rain of yesterday has washed away a lot of it, leaving behind some rather dangerous black ice.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Andy, get rid of that cold! Take some Lemsip!

Hi Andy! If you're out there reading this blog, get well soon. I'm sure you called me and left a voicemail – I haven't checked yet – but I heard from David that you're a bit under the weather and I kind of guessed you're not going on the cycle today. I didn't go either, annoyingly. See blogpost below this one for details and the post before that for details of yesterday's cycle.

Hopefully, see you next week.

The X Factor, David Foster and a late night...

Cue unnecessary God-like music, it's the X Factor judges!
Alright, it wasn't David's fault and we left his gaff around midnight and hadn't had more than a pint of Stella over the entire evening; but once home, and having missed the Saturday Evening X Factor I foolishly checked out the TV and noticed that ITV was repeating it, obviously for those who missed it first time around. I just had to know who had been kicked off the show and so I sat there, reading the Guardian and watching the repeat. It went on until gone 2am in the morning but I discovered, to my disappointment, that Stacey Solomon had been booted off; which was odd as she was, by far, a million times better than Olly Murs whose performance with Robbie Williams was, how should I put this, underwhelming. Alright, fucking awful! I can only assume that Murs will fall at the final fence as Joe McElderry is way ahead. I would even venture that he's a better singer than George Michael.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: went to bed at 2am in the morning, felt knackered in the morning and decided not to go cycling. Now I wish I'd gone to bed early as it's another nice day and, well, I've missed a day's exercise.

The Carshalton London plane tree

The plaque above contains the following information (see below):

Just a brief word about the London Plane Tree in Festival Walk, Carshalton: it was measured by the Forestry Commission in March 1964 and was found to be 123ft tall. It has a girth of 20ft 11in at a height of 5ft above ground level. It is (or was in March 1964) the tallest London Plane tree known in Britain and is one of the very few trees of any kind to exceed both 120ft in height and 20ft in girth. The age of the tree is not known with accuracy, but is likely to exceed 200 years. Being that 1964 was over 40 years ago, the tree must now exceed 240 years old.

If you would like more information on Carshalton, a London suburb, click here.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

December 12th 2009 – To Carshalton to see mum and dad!

Yours truly (above left) with Jon at the largest plane tree in England, Festival Walk, Carshalton, just before we headed to mum and dad's and a historic cycle up Dog Shit Alley. Middle photo shows three Christmas cakes – one for me, one for Jon and for our sister Clarissa, known as Criss. Top pic is the West Street end of Dog Shit Alley, you can see Jon cycling in the foreground.

Having swam around a mile and a half this week (three half-mile bursts in Purley Pool on Monday and Wednesday and then an evening swim in Richmond) I was feeling pretty good this morning when I woke up and was ready for a cycle to Woodmansterne Green.

We decided to nip round to see mum and dad in Carshalton? So off we toddled. En route we decided to take a detour in order to take in some of our old haunts. We passed the Greyhound, a Young's pub in the village, where Jon, myself and various friends boosted the profits of Young's for some time during the late seventies and eighties. It's changed a bit since our day. I will always remember the 'back bar', which was always full of bikers and dense cigarette smoke and the Swan bar, which is probably still there; it was where all the snobs went for a drink. Anyway, a great pub, it has to be said, especially in the summer when there were the ponds across the road. These were the days of the old licensing hours when you had to be out of the pub by eleven o'clock at night and by 3pm on a lunchtime. I don't know why, but in some ways it was miles better than the current all-day drinking scenario.

We used to love going to the Greyhound on Christmas day lunchtime and then come home for mum's turkey with all the trimmings followed by a snooze and then the realisation that all the pubs were closed on Christmas night and that there was absolutely nothing to do bar watching the television. Of course, in those days, the programmes were good: The Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show, Disney Time (well, when we were a little younger) and, of course, the Christmas Day Top of the Pops during the day (normally, if I recall, before we went to the pub).

In those days we used to drink Young's Special but today I much prefer Ordinary bitter. As they say in the industry, it's a good 'session' drink, which basically means you can knock back four or five pints and still feel fine (ish), you can't drive, put it that way.

Across the road from the Greyhound and to the left of the ponds is Festival Walk, a shaded path that leads on to West Street. The shade is caused by a huge plane tree that once made the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest in the country. Whether it still holds that record, I don't know, but the plaque is still there explaining how the tree is a couple of hundred years old, probably about 250 years old by now as we're not sure when the plaque was put there.

Turning right on to West Street we cycled up past what used to be the Carshalton headquarters of the Sea Scouts. I remember as a boy being intrigued by the Sea Scouts but not intrigued enough to join them. There was something cool about being in the Sea Scouts as opposed to the land-based ones, but strangely, we never, ever saw anybody in or around the building, certainly no Sea Scouts.

Across the road from the Sea Scouts building, which, incidentally, is no longer there and is now housing, there are some amazing old houses set back from the road. I know little about these houses but I'll try and find out more and report back.

Carrying on along West Street we eventually reached the great Dog Shit Alley, so called because, at night, and because somebody always managed to knock out the street lights, there was a high risk of stepping in some dog shit. Taking Dog Shit Alley home was always a little scary but it cut off the alternative journey of walking up Pound Street, turning right on to the Carshalton Road and then right again down Short's Road and home. If you were really brave you would walk home, in the dark, walk, not run, and not whistle to yourself either. If, like me, you found it all too much, the best thing was to whistle and break into a jog and hope you wouldn't meet anybody coming the other way.

If you take a train from Carshalton to Sutton, the line runs parallel to Dog Shit Alley and it was possible to read the graffiti on the wall, which has now been painted over with a horrible, garish pink paint. The wall, incidentally, belongs to St Philomena's school where my mate Alan and I used to nick apples. The graffiti was never offensive. "Smoke it, don't plant it" was one and I think there were a few peace signs too plus some names, like Tony Croker and Cliff Levens. I know that Tony is dead but not sure about Levens. His dad used to run The Bell in Cheam but I didn't know him, my mate Andy did.

It's weird cycling up Rossdale because that's what we used to do as kids. I used to pretend my bike was a train and I even mapped out a few imaginary stations: Plumbury being so named because of the Victoria plum tree that overhung the street from the garden of shop at the end of the road.

The shop's gone now; it too is now housing, but it used to be a grocery store called Pullen's and then Len's of Sutton, a shop for railway enthusiasts that was incredibly well thought of in the world of trainspotters. Once, my mate Andy was asked directions to the shop by a man who had travelled all the way from Aberdeen. Amazing.

Mum and dad's house hasn't changed much over the years, it's still a very cosy place especially now that mum has the Christmas decorations in place. When we arrived they, mum and dad, were having breakfast. We stopped for a cup of tea, a Maryland cookie and a chat and then headed home, parting company at the end of the road and going our separate ways.

We're on for tomorrow, though, and who knows where we'll be going?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

5 and 6 December 2009 – abort! abort! abort!

Andy and I couldn't make Saturday and then Sunday was rained off completely. How annoying! Especially when, around 11am, the sun came out. Oh well, next week – and it'll have to be a long one, ie Redhill. 

Monday, 30 November 2009

28 and 29 November 2009 – life's a beach? Not when you're cycling in the rain

I forgot to take the camera with me on Sunday so here's a picture of the beach at Felpham on the West Sussex coast, a cycling destination the No Visible Lycra Committee have discussed but never attempted. In fact, we briefly touched upon it on Sunday. Perhaps next year, eh, chaps?
It was one of those weekends. First, there was reasonably decent weather. On Saturday morning (28th November) it was one of those clear days, not too cold and just fine for cycling, but for various reasons I didn't bother going. To be honest, I slobbed around a bit. Normally I am out of the house by 0700hrs and on my way but I got used to making myself comfortable, drinking tea. And then I remembered my slow puncture. Time was moving on.

Still, Jon and I had communicated and the cycle was still game on – and then it wasn't. Time was ticking by, there were things to do and in the end I thought no, I'll go tomorrow. Which, of course, was a big mistake. Why? Because the following day it pissed down. I got up early and could hear the rain hammering down on the conservatory roof, it was heavy. But then it stopped, suddenly, and when I looked out it was clear and quiet and I had already arranged with Andy to meet at the top of Foxley Lane so I had to just get out there and go. 

Such a downpour had prompted Andy to write the obligatory 'abort' text message but just before pressing it, the rain had stopped and we met, as usual, at around 0730hrs. Over in Epsom, where Jon lives, the rain was still hammering down and it didn't look as if he would be at the green. We, that is Andy and I, managed to avoid a soaking until we were nearing Woodmansterne Green, but by the time we got there we were drenched through and sought refuge under the covered gateway at the church where we sipped hot tea and munched on our cereal bars.

Just when we'd accepted the fact that Jon wasn't going to turn it, he arrived and stood around chatting about various subjects, some mirthful, others a little more serious. One of the more serious topics was racism, prompted by a man who approached and asked for directions to a church hall where later in the day a wake would take place. We admitted we didn't know the area that well and suggested he spoke to the man in the newsagents. "Nah, he's Indian he won't know," he said, dismissively and that's how the conversation began.

We continued to chew the fat under the gateway as the rain started and stopped, started and stopped, until we realised we'd have to just go for it. Parting company with Jon, Andy and I went home the quick way, which for me meant a ride along the busy (and wet A23). It was very unpleasant and I was soaked through. From the Purley Oaks Road onwards, until I reached home, I effed and blinded to myself, like some madman with Tourette's. "Fucking, fuck!" and words to that effect. It was the only way I could cope with the driving rain for some reason. Fortunately, nobody heard me.

I reached home drenched through and had to peel my clothes off, dry myself down and then change into something clean and dry. One thing that did please me, however, was the fact that I'd got up and gone cycling, however unpleasant it turned out I still did it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Sunday November 22nd - Woodmansterne Green

Are we lucky with the weather or are we lucky with the weather? Let's face it: rain, wind, it's not been good, but for some reason, we've managed to avoid it this weekend. Here we are on Woodmansterne Green (Andy, yours truly and Jon). It looked as if it was going to pour down at any moment, but it didn't – well, not until we were all home and dry.

Actually, there was a tiny bit of rain but we found cover underneath a parasol outside the Woodman Pub where we drank hot tea and chewed the fat on various subjects.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

New front mudguard for Andy

He'll be getting a basket next! Andy's new front mudguard means no more Kona Face (our name for a face covered in flecks of mud).

November 21st 2009 – the bus stop beyond Botley

Our bus stop is fantastic: a nice dry bench on which to sit; a roof to keep you dry in rain, sleet or snow and a generally relaxing vibe.

There's not doubt about it, the old wooden bus stop just past the Botley Hill roundabout en route to Westerham is our favourite resting place. For a start, there's shelter, so even in wet weather the seats are dry. We've taken refuge from the snow at this bus stop, it's great and there's owt better than a decent cuppa while seating there admiring the view. Not that there's much of a view, just a road and a few grass verges.

We were running late today so Andy and I parted company at the Botley roundabout on the return trip.

Sunday November 15th – After the flood

The top of Foxley Lane, Purley, was waterlogged after storms on Saturday 14 November. This shot taken on Sunday 15th November.

Nobody in their right mind would have gone cycling on Saturday 14 November; there were howling winds and driving rain and later there would be plenty of flooded roads too. Sunday seemed fine so off we toddled to Woodmansterne Green. On the way we saw this huge puddle at the top of Foxley Lane, Purley, our meeting place. You can just see Andy in the far right corner of the shot.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

The view from the top of Box Hill

The view from the top of Box Hill. Not bad, even if it was a little overcast. We'd just had our tea and cake and took this shot as we embarked upon our journey back to Croydon.

November 8th: Croydon to Box Hill

Jon had been saying how Box Hill was 'just up the road', probably no further away than Redhill from Woodmansterne Green and that we should go there. In fact, yesterday, while at the green he said 'let's do it tomorrow'. No sweat, thought I, no sweat. Let's do it.

The weather wasn't as good as yesterday. It had been raining all night by the looks of things and judging by the overcast skies it looked as if the rain was about to pour down. Fortunately, it didn't, but it was wet and when you haven't got any mudguards you can get a very wet arse.

Met Andy at Purley in the usual place and off we went, still not 100 per cent sure we were going to ride to Box Hill. Better phone Jon to check he's going first: no answer, just the ansaphone and that was the way it stayed until we were almost back home: no answer and no reply. Jon's excuse? "A bit of a headache." Fair enough, but we did it and it was much further away than Redhill.

But what a great run it was; hard work in parts, but not too bad and the reward when we got there was almost too good to be true. Not only some excellent views over Surrey, but an excellent café too. Well, not a cafe, more of a servery, but take a look at those cakes! They were the best. Because the flask had failed us last week, we had to rely upon tea from the servery. Andy ordered a coffee (that's a Lycra wearer's drink, Andy!) and we had some cake too. I tucked in to a slab of coffee and walnut and Andy went for a piece of chocolate cake.

There were some pretty serious cyclists there too, riding mainly Specialized top-of-the-range mountain bikes, although one had a Claud Butler and another had a Mongoose. They were covered from head to toe in mud – and they're bikes had mudguards! These were, of course, serious off-roaders, but they were suitably impressed by our Spongy Wonder saddles and wondered where the hell they could get one in the UK. You can't, we said, only in Canada, via mail order. Nice to impress the professionals!

Cake eaten, tea drank and quick dump thrown in for good measure and we were back on the road again. This was easily our longest ever Sunday morning cycle, apart from when we get involved in the Black Horse sponsored cycle every May. I didn't get home until 11.30am! We'd cycled between 35 and 40 miles but it was worth it just for the tea and cake.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Empty the bins!

This time last week (November 1st 2009) my Black's stainless steel thermos flask fell to the floor and died. I put the dead flask into the waste bin on Woodmansterne Green and lo and behold, it's still there! Sort it out, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, sort it out!!!!

Woodmansterne Green, Saturday November 7 2009

Compared with last week's awful weather, this week was truly amazing. Here's three views of the green taken this morning. Note the blue sky and remember that we're in early November!

November 7th 2009 – Jon and I meet at Woodmansterne Green

Jon (top) and me below at Woodmansterne Green, Saturday November 7th 2009. A nice day. The sun was shining and the ground was dry. Boxhill tomorrow!
I have to say that I'm getting a little bored of Woodmansterne Green, but it's fine if you want a quick work-out on a Saturday morning and want to be relatively close to home. It's also quite a nice place in the autumn and there's a newsagent, as we discovered last week in the rain, that sells teabags (among many other things).

The topic of conversation in the newsagents today was the two UK winners of the EuroMillions draw; they each won £45 million. Silly money in the scheme of things and once you've bought that huge mansion the only thing that really changes in life is you have a longer walk to the kitchen in the mornings. I wouldn't know what to do with such a vast sum of cash, it has to be said. I'd probably do something worthwhile with the money, like build a hospital in Africa, named after me, perhaps; I might have a statue of myself erected out front so that my name lived on long after I passed away, who knows? With the rest of it, I'd have a nice time. I'd definitely buy that Fender Precision bass I've promising myself and I'd travel. I would travel around the world without leaving the ground. I've got it all sorted: train from Victoria to Southampton then pick up a boat and cross the Atlantic to New York. I'd hang around in the big apple for a day or two and then get a train to Seattle, where I'd book into the Ace Hotel on First and slob around for a week or two, visit Pike Street Market, eat out here and there and then I'd head down to Portland Oregon where I'd book into the Ace Hotel on First and Stark, chill out for a bit, live dangerously in the Joyce across the road for a day or two and then I'd get a train down to LA, well, San Francisco first and then LA. I would chill here too, probably go to Disney World or whatever it is that's in LA, swim a bit, eat a bit and then try and find a boat that would take me out to Hawaii where i would chill even more. After that, who knows? I'd probably be a beach bum for a month or two before finding out how to get a boat over to Japan and then, after touring around there for a bit, I'd jump on a ship to China, preferably Vladivostok where I could pick up the Trans Siberian Express and head for Moscow, travelling rhrough weird and whacky places like Novosibirsk (which is probably not spelt correctly). I would then make my way through Europe and end up on the ferry from Calais to Dover. Not bad eh?

But, of course, it will never happen. The chances of winning the lottery are something like 14 million to one! Think about that! To be honest, winning a six-figure sum on five and the bonus would do me. I'm not really motivated by money.

So there was Jon and yours truly standing on Woodmansterne Green talking about winning the lottery and wondering what the green would be like in 3009. We were talking about this because Jon had said that in 1809 there was probably nothing but woods at Woodmansterne. The clue, of course, is in the title, WOODmansterne. "Of course, by 3009 we'd just be dust," said Jon, bringing the futility of life and working for a living to the fore. Talk about on a downer! As he'd left the house, his wife reminded him that going on cycles with me and Andy was a bit like Last of the Summer Wine – another reminder of our frail mortality.

But it was too nice a day to worry about dying so I tucked in to a Flake and a bottle of mineral water and then spent the journey home dying for a piss – not because I'm an old git but because I'd also drank a pint of tea before I left the house this morning. The water must have taken me over the top. I waited until I got home.

I was a lovely day, as the photographs above show, and, while Andy doesn't know this yet, it looks as if we're going to do Boxhill tomorrow. Jon reckons its nearer than Redhill. I have my doubts, but another destination is what we need, otherwise we just keep turning up at Woodmansterne Green and this blog starts to get a little samey.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Andy and Jon, Woodmansterne Green, Nov 1st 2009

Jon and Andy chatting under the oak tree (bottom) and sheltering from the rain at the church (top).

Views of Woodmansterne Green

Rivers of rain at Woodmansterne Green (top); the church at Woodmansterne Green and a shot of the green itself taken from underneath the huge oak tree.

Bad day for a vintage car rally? You bet!

Here's a photograph of a vintage car in Purley. It had broken down. There must have been some kind of vintage car rally, probably London to Brighton, but the weather was piss poor. Most of the cars were open to the elements so the driver and passengers were all togged up in raincoats and googles. It can't have been much fun.

November 1st 2009 – Woodmansterne Green in torrential rain

Andy, Jon and yours truly sheltering from the rain on November 1st 2009. It was pissing down. Note my mug of tea to my left and the milk container. That flask you can see behind me was resting precariously and, shortly after this shot was taken, it fell to the ground and smashed. If you want it, it's in a wastebin on the Green. Is it me, by the way, or have I got a fucking huge head?

Not a good day for a vintage car rally, especially if your vintage car is open to the elements, as most of them appeared to be; the skies were looking a little overcast too. To be fair, it wasn't that bad at first: a little blowy and a bit of spitting rain but otherwise relatively pleasant. It stayed that way until we reached Woodmansterne Green but then the heavens opened. Even the green's huge oak tree proved to be an ineffective shelter and we eventually decamped to a covered wooden gateway over at the churchyard – we being Andy Smith, yours truly and my brother Jon.

It was to be a slapstick trip full of disasters, albeit minor ones, but irritating nonetheless. The first was discovering that I had a flask of hot water and fresh milk but no teabags. We would have been scuppered had we been at Botley Hill but, as luck would have it, we were on Woodmansterne Green and the newsagent sold teabags. Lucky, also, that Jon had some money with him.

As the rain fell we sipped tea and munched on cereal bars, but then disaster number two: the flask fell from where I had perched it and, despite the fact that it was made of stainless steel, the plastic rim and thermostat still managed to chip on the hard concrete floor. I left it in a wastebasket on the green and resolved not to buy another one from Black's. Millets flasks don't have a plastic rim so I'll be buying one next week – twenty quid I could do without spending.

The third disaster wasn't really a disaster but it could have been. Looking into the flask, which had contained hot water, to see if any bits of broken plastic had fallen into it, I tipped the flask towards my face and got showered with hot water. Fortunately not that hot and there was only a little bit of it. Still, it could have been much worse.

Last but not least, don't ever take a digital camera out in the rain. Why not? Because the rain messes with the electronic wizardry and the camera goes crazy. For a minute I was considering buying a new camera, but it must have dried out as now it works fine.

The journey back was hellish: driving rain all the way. We left Jon at the Green and then Andy and I parted company at Coulsdon. All the way along the Brighton Road into Purley there was a constant process of vintage cars and many of them had broken down. I'd imagine they were all going to Brighton and I knew how most of them would be arriving – soaking wet! I stopped to take photos (see the next post for photos) but the rain was getting worse and worse so I put the camera away.

I'm glad we went cycling, even if it was pouring with rain. At least we got out and did it when we could so easily have stayed in bed. My bike looks a helluva lot cleaner too, having been showered in rain water all morning.

A valuable lesson was learned today: that waterproof clothing is a complete waste of time. I was wearing Regatta waterproofs, which are designed to be worn while on a yacht (not that I have a yacht). They were absolutely useless. When I reached home I was wet-through.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Sunday October 25th – to Redhill

Yes, once again, it's very sad. This is my new flask, full of hot water. on the far left is a little Tupperware container with teabags in it and there in the middle is a decent porcelain mug from the cup tree in the kitchen. Andy took this shot on his mobile phone. We were in Redhill and I had little in the way of change to visit Café de Paris and I didn't want to waste all that hot water!

The clocks had gone back, which meant that I got up an hour earlier than necessary. It happens every year although this time I was up anyway and when I woke up I knew that the digital clock was displaying 4:33 but that really it was only 3:33. I resolved to try and get back to sleep, but I knew that the alarm had not been set and that if I did fall back to sleep I'd probably then oversleep and miss the cycle. But then I did fall asleep and when I awoke it was 6:10, or 5:10 as I hadn't put the clocks back. This time I bounded out of bed and spent an hour messing around on the computer, drinking tea and eating cereal.

Met Andy at Purley today and we resolved to go to Redhill – that's roughly a 30-mile round trip from where we are located. Jon thought we were just meeting at Woodmansterne Green so we surprised him by saying we were off to Redhill and soon we were on our way up Hazelwood Lane in Chipstead, a killer hill, then turning right and cycling past Chipstead FC and then Chipstead RFC, past Elmore Pond and eventually turning left into Markedge Lane, past Fanny's Farm, under the M25 and then left past Reigate Hill Golf Club, back under the M25 and up towards the A23 at Merstham. From there it's all A23, past Redhill College and straight into Redhill.

It was Sunday but fortunately Café de Paris was open, a nice caff run by a couple of Eastern European women. I hadn't expected this and had bought my flask of tea, but I still ordered a Millionaire's shortbread and we all sat and chatted about this and that, resolving to set up our own brewery and produce Frank's Bitter after Frank Moggridge, one of the ancestors, who used to make pianos. He liked drink, apparently, and soon there was no business. "Frank's Bitter because, unlike the Murphy's, we're bitter."

Redhill is a good run and soon we were ready to head home back along the A23 where Jon and I say goodbye to Andy. We head back roughly the way we came and Andy rides along the A23 to a turning just past an Indian restaurant on the right and then heads for Caterham.

I got home at 10:44, and that was the real time as my mobile phone hadn't forgotten to put its clock back.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Ten miler to Warlingham Sainsbury's and just beyond!

Don't you hate the way that 'they' – whoever 'they' are – sneak things like urbanisation in on the quiet. I mean, take the old Chelsham Bus Garage, which is now a Sainsbury's; the buses, as you can see from the top shot, used to be green. They are now red. Why? It simply means that Warlingham has now lost its rural status, which is normally why the buses are green, and is part of the urban sprawl that is London and Croydon. Yuk!

Drizzling rain didn't put me off, which is rare. I headed off at lunch time to do a quick ten-miler out beyond Warlingham Green, past Warlingham Sainsbury's (which used to be a bus garage but was demolished in August 1990 to make way for a Sainsbury's superstore) and on to Ledgers Road on the way to Botley Hill. Yes, I could have gone the extra three miles to Botley Hill Farm, but I was in my lunch break so I turned round, stopping off at Sainsbury's to buy a couple of light bulbs. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

20 October 2009 – a suburban cycle

Our house, in the middle of our street, our house...[repeat and fade]

Left the house around 0750hrs for a 45-minute cycle around the burbs. Quite tough as there were plenty of hills, but I was never that far from home. An ideal 'before work' sort of thing.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A better cup of tea...

New flask means a new order – proper tea made from water, teabags and fresh milk. Bring it on!

After a particularly poor cup of tea the other week, it was time to buy a new flask. I found a decent one in Black's in Richmond and bought it along with a container to carry fresh milk. I figured it would be better not to make up the tea in the flask but to carry hot water, milk and teabags so we could make up our own tea. And what a difference it made! Twining's English Breakfast tea, piping hot water and fresh milk. Pictured above is the new flask and milk container. Yes, I know, it's all very sad.

Nice slippers!

Sensible footwear for cycling – he bought the 'slippers' in New York, but that doesn't make them any cooler.

No Visible Lycra is all about not wearing Lycra cycling gear and this is, perhaps, taking things too far. We both thought that Jon had forgotten to take his slippers off but no, he hadn't! What can we say other than can you get us some too?

October 17 and 18 2009 – Woodmansterne Green

Picture shows Andy Smith, Jon Moggridge and me, Matt Moggridge standing by our Fire Mountain, Blast and Scrap Kona mountain bikes. Andy owns the Blast, mine's the Scrap and Jon's is the Fire Mountain. Pic taken on Sunday 18 October 2009.

Went nowhere on the 17th but up and out of the house earlyish on Sunday for a trip down to Woodmansterne Green where we met my brother Jon. We've all got Kona mountain bikes as you can see from the group shot above.

Quite cold out this morning, especially going down Purley Oaks Road. The cold breeze made me wish I'd put on my balaclava, but I couldn't turn back as I was already too far from home and, well, after a while you get used to the cold. Besides, we'd been out in worse conditions than today's weather. It was clear and bright but cold basically, nothing to moan about.

I'd had a bit of a week in terms of beer drinking and judging by the photo above, I need a little bit more exercise.

October 10 and 11 2009

No excuse bar laziness. We didn't go cycling this weekend. Shame on us!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Flat tyre? It's those pesky thorn bushes...

Thorn bushes that line the A233 outside Westerham and, indeed, all around the area. If you're a cyclist, watch out and be prepared.

When Andy and I first started cycling back in the summer of 2006, we never bothered with back-up; and by back-up I mean a puncture repair kit, a bicycle pump, that sort of thing. We would set off, in a sense, 'naked', a bit like walking a tight rope without a safety net.

The early days involved a lot of trips down to Westerham on the B269, a route we re-traced on October 4th (see blogpost below by scrolling down). The road is fine, but a much safer stretch of off-road pavement is littered with danger of another sort – thorns!

Without any back-up, of course, getting a puncture used to put both Andy and I in a very difficult position: stranded 10 miles from home, we would have to walk home, which would take the best part of three hours, with a bike and an irritating noise caused by the deflated rubber of the tyres. We had a rule in place: if one of us got a puncture, the other would have to walk too and not simply cycle off smugly.

We've had to walk from Botley Hill all the way home as there's no option: buses won't allow bikes on board and there's no station nearby. Getting stranded in Westerham was different as we were three miles from Oxted where there is a train station. There were numerous occasions when Andy and I trudged our way along the A25 into Oxted to wait for a train home.

The big question, of course, was why? Why did we do this when we could simply fix our punctures on the roadside? There was no answer, of course, so we started buying and stashing a brand new inner tube (price roughly £5) in our rucksacks and simply replacing the punctured tube with the new one. Not a problem, although it was always pretty horrible when it was raining or just plain cold.

Inner tubes at a fiver a time was a problem as we found that punctures were quite common on that route. Suddenly one of us would notice that the ride had got a little wobbly and then discover it was a puncture. It was then a case of stopping, taking the wheel off – a real hassle if it was the rear wheel – and then inserting the new inner tube.

Punctures became so frequent that we started keeping score. I seemed to get the most for some reason and took it upon myself to blame the bike: not so much a Kona Scrap, I wrote to the guys at Kona in Canada, but Kona CRAP!!! Of course, it wasn't the bike's fault, it was purely a fact that a thorn, often a very large thorn, had decided to puncture my bike and not Andy's.

But I was getting a reputation as the Puncture King, although was never that far behind. The latest score, I think, is 4-3 to me, meaning I've had four to Andy's three punctures. Andy has Kevlar-reinforced tyres and it has made a difference, we've taken to riding on the road along the B269 to avoid the thorns.

What gets me about all this – and again it's not the bike's fault – is that we now both own top-of-the-range off road bikes but can't risk going off road for fear of getting an inevitable puncture.

We've wised up to the inner tube thing and have started buying Leeches, small, circular black discs that simply stick onto the puncture and mend in seconds. We've become dab hands at it, to be honest, but still have our moments. If I can I'll post some video of Andy fixing a puncture on his old bike (they're on my mobile phone and I don't know how to transfer them to my Mac).

Needless to say, I always have a pack or two of Leeches in my rucksack, and a pump!

Coming out of Westerham on Sunday along the A233 (Beggar's Lane) we both spotted the offending thorn bushes that have caused us so much grief. You can see a photograph of them above. It goes without saying that we kept our distance!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Should have gone in here for a cup of tea!

Andy outside the Tudor Rose Tearooms in Westerham wishing he'd had a decent cup of tea for a change.

We shall never surrender!

Good old Winston Churchill, who lived at Chartwell, just a short drive from where this shot was taken on the green at Westerham.

A dodgy cup of tea at Westerham

Perhaps I need a new flask. Either that or the milk was just off. The first cup was fine, but the second cup was full of tea-coloured bits – not very appetising. Fortunately I spotted it otherwise I would have swallowed a mouth full of, er, bits. Yuk!

Andy's Kona Blast

Andy's new Kona Blast resting against the Warlingham Green war memorial just prior to our cycle to Westerham on Sunday 4 October.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sunday 4 October 2009 – to Westerham!

I can't remember when we last rode our bikes to Westerham, but it's got to be a month or two ago. We met at the green at just gone 0730hrs, where I took a few shots of Andy's new Kona Blast (of which, more later). Around 0845hrs we were on our way, up past Warlingham Sainsbury's, past Knight's Garden Centre and into the wilds en route to Botley Hill on the A269, hanging a left at the top of Titsey Hill and virtually freewheeling all the way down the hill to Westerham, past our beloved bus stop.

The tea was disappointing today. Why, I don't know, but I guess it was the milk going off. Anyway, enough of that! Andy wanted to do a bit of off-roading so we headed out of Westerham on the A233 and then hung a left into The Avenue, a nice bit of off-road that bypasses the boredom of the hill out of Westerham if you go back the other way.

It was here that I made a movie – not just any movie, mind, No Visible Lycra – The Movie to be precise. Check it out below!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday 3 October 2009

I always feel a little ashamed when I wake up on a reasonably good day, the sun's out and there's no sign of rain and I should be jumping up out of bed and racing off into the country – but I decide instead to loll around doing nothing. Admittedly I have an excuse, well, two excuses: one is that my cycling pal Andy isn't going today; and two is that I have to take my daughter to a local school to sit one of those entrance exams.

So, here I am, at 0821hrs, writing this blogpost. Rain permitting, of course, I'll up with the lark tomorrow morning to meet Andy, at Warlingham Green, for a cycle to the bus stop – or possibly out towards Woodmansterne Green, we haven't made up our minds yet.

If I can drum up the enthusiasm, I'll go on a local cycle later.