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.