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.