Sunday, 31 October 2010

Rain stops play

I think this photograph says it all. This pic was taken from
If it hadn't been for excessive drinking on Friday and not getting home until the early hours, then I'd have gone cycling yesterday as it was, if I recall a nice day. Sunday, however, is a different kettle of fish. Here I sit in my conservatory listening to the rain hammering down on the felt roof and I'm thinking, this ain't going to blow over soon.

To be fair, I'd gone out and noted the deep grey skies with interest, realising that I should have put my waterproof gear on, but I figured I'd escape a soaking for some reason. The rain started within five minutes of leaving the house, but not heavy, so I took cover underneath some trees and checked my phone, which was on silent, to see if Andy had called: he had.

Over in Caterham where Andy lives, it seems to rain harder and earlier than over here, some six miles away. He told me it was hammering it down and that, sooner or later, it would be over here in Sanderstead too. He was right. Fortunately, I was only on Church Way and decided, after some faffing about (during which I thought I'd push on to Botley, but fortunately wised up) to return home.

And here I am, writing the blog instead; so it looks as if I'll have to wait until next week.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

24 October 2010 – to Tatsfield Village

There are various ways of working out that it's winter – or there would be in a world devoid of people and the media. If the nightmare world depicted in Cormac McCarthy's The Road ever became reality, then, apart from no leaves on the trees and frost on car windscreens, there's always the fact that Andy stops wearing his shorts. On the morning of Sunday 24 October, Andy stood on the green minus his shorts – but fortunately not minus his trousers.

The green at Tatsfield Village as seen through the frame of my Kona.
We hadn't been cycling on the Saturday and I can't for the life of me remember why. It was probably raining and we just thought, no, not a soaking, not today. But Sunday was different. In fact, it was very pleasant and one of those days that somehow characterise our cycling.

I've started wearing my gloves and a jumper. Andy and I stood on the green wondering where to go. To be honest, this week I thought Jon would be going as we spoke on the phone and I was awaiting his familiar ring tone on the iphone, but it never came. Had it done so, we'd have probably 'done a short one' to Woodmansterne Green, a journey Andy and I are never that keen on because it's so suburban and, quite frankly, boring – until you reach the green, which is a pleasant enough sort of place and for me holds pleasant memories of chewing the fat with Jon in the cold weather leading up to the last Christmas. If you check back on this blog you'll notice that we, Andy and I, went there on Boxing Day.

Andy and I reached Tatsfield only to find two blokes drinking from cans of Stella – at 8 o'clock in the morning! Now, we've all done it, I know, but there comes a time when drinking strong lager for breakfast just isn't cricket and I found myself inwardly looking at them with disgust while thinking 'how could they do that?' Mind you, not that long ago I was in Munich, or just south of it, and I visited a fantastic hotel where the traditional breakfast is white sausage, sweet mustard and, wait for it, a huge, trumpet-shaped glass full of really decent German lager – fantastic! Did it 'set me up for the day'? Probably, but drinking a can of Stella, without the white sausage and the mustard while standing up in a pub car park – well, it doesn't have that ring to it.

The Pope – he's Catholic, you know!
We were in a jovial mood as Andy reminded me that he'd be going to Jamaica over Christmas – meaning that on Boxing Day I'd be cycling alone this year, freezing cold, no doubt, as Andy basks in the Caribbean heat. For some reason we got to talking about the Pope. Why, I don't know as neither of us are Catholic, but it revolved around that phrase, "Is the Pope Catholic?" It's used to emphasise the obvious. "Apples? Green? Is the Pope a Catholic?" "Karl Marx? Left wing? Is the Pope a Catholic?" And so on, but Andy suggested a scenario whereby he finds himself exclaiming, "Is the Pope a Catholic?" only to notice that his retort has been met with an awkward silence, prompting Andy to say, "He's behind me, isn't he?" Meaning the Pope. For some reason it became the theme of the morning chat.

We talked about IVF treatment and people who can't have kids and Andy says it shouldn't be available on the NHS – and nor should boob jobs, he added. I agreed with boob jobs, but I'm not sure about IVF, but its a debate that could run and run.

Tea drank, cereal bars eaten, conversation over there was nothing for it – we'd have to cycle home.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Cycling over 16 and 17 October – an uneventful weekend...

Tatsfield won Double Gold in the 2010 Britain in Bloom competition.
A brief word on last weekend's cycling. Last Saturday, nothing, but on Sunday Andy and I went to Tatsfield Village where we drank some tea, had a chat and ended up back home. Not a good weekend for cycling, but hopefully we'll make up for it this weekend. Jon's back from his holiday (I think he went to Sorrento for a week) so we might be heading off for Hunger's End and a nice breakfast.

Generally speaking, the weather is getting colder. I've noticed the car has frost on the windscreen now, which is a sign of bad weather. Andy has stopped wearing his shorts and I think that this weekend I'll definitely be wearing my gloves.

It's also getting a bit dark in the mornings, although this weekend I think the clocks go back – another sign of winter! Dark mornings mean that Andy will start reminding me that I don't have a rear light. I need to get that sorted immediately – but then again, I've been saying that for the past four years.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Smithy, the no-nonsense racehorse – and me!

Yours truly (on the left!) with Smithy, the John Smith's No Nonsense racehorse.
This shot was taken at the stables of Ginger and Donald McCain, two extremely
good racehorse trainers. Ginger, who turned 80 recently, was the trainer behind
the great Red Rum. Suitable captions please! But come on, what a great-looking
horse – and I don't look too bad either!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Blue skies and sunshine – in October

Blue skies along Pilgrim's Lane on Sunday 10th October 2010
Just thought I'd throw in this shot taken around 10.30am on Sunday morning, October 10th, just to show how amazing the weather was last weekend.

Monday, 11 October 2010

To Hunger's End and Longford Lake...

In another shameful display of either sheer laziness or pure fatigue – although more likely a bit of both – I took the train home from Merstham after our cycle to Hunger's End where we enjoyed tea and toast and a read of The Sun.

Map shows Merstham High Street, home of Hunger's End
and, of course, Merstham Railway Station.
As promised by the weathermen, the weekend was good. Not sunny on Saturday (as predicted) but not raining and not cold. Andy is still wearing his shorts, put it that way, and I'm not yet reaching for the gloves, so the weather's been pretty mild and we've yet to get a soaking. In fact, as we discussed, we've managed to avoid a soaking since the beginning of the year. I say the beginning of the year, but it was probably something like April or May, I'll have to check the archive. I've checked and, believe it or not, it was August 1st on the way back from Westerham.

I wasn't really up for cycling to Merstham to be honest as I'd not slept well and had woken up around 0350hrs and then found it difficult to get back to sleep. The week prior, I'd managed to walk the best part of 30 miles (roughly six miles a day, five days a week) and that must have contributed to my general state of weariness, although the lack of sleep the night before the ride did it for me.

Shameful evidence! My bike spotted by the fitness police
outside of Merstham Station, Saturday 9 October 2010.
The ride was good and we decided to go 'the short way' by turning right on the A25 and not going across and down towards Church Town and the Enterdent.

After bidding farewell to Andy who, to be fair, had a shorter return ride than I would have had, I loitered around the music shop looking at the bass guitars before free-wheeling down to the station and buying a ticket to Purley, from where I cycled home.

At Purley, one of the minicab drivers outside the station stopped me to discuss my unusual saddle. He was refering, of course, to the Spongy Wonder. We chatted for a while and then off I went home to work out what to do with the rest of my weekend.

Off-road outside of Westerham, en route to Longford Lake.
The sun shows through the trees around 8am, Sunday 10 October.
Sunday saw us riding along Pilgrim's Lane towards Longford Lake in Chevening, Kent. A nice ride and I was feeling much more alive. We talked about this and that but our main topic of conversation, which we'd started in Merstham, was the EuroMillions British winner of the £110 million jackpot. What, we wondered, would we do with such a huge sum of money? We both agreed that we could offload around £30 million to friends and family, but that would still leave £80 million.

My plan would be to invest in property as I simply don't trust the banks anymore. I'd probably build a few housing estates for those who can't afford to buy their own house, holiday lets, that sort of thing; and I'd definitely travel around the UK visiting hospitals and finding out what they needed in the way of scanners and such like. I'd like to see whole hospital wings built using my money and possibly named The Moggridge Ward or whatever, some kind of lasting memento of my philanthropy.

Our big question as we returned home from the lake was how Camelot hand over the money. Do they place it electronically in the winner's bank account or hand them a cheque? How worrying it would all become in the sense of not being able to trust the banks. There is, of course, a £50,000 limit on monies refundable should the bank or banks go bust, meaning that you'd have a load of different bank and building society accounts. I reckon that you could put away a couple of million in that way, ie £50,000 in the Halifax, Lloyds, Nat West and so on, then, of course, you could whack away £30,000 in premium bonds, but remember we're dealing with something like £70 million after you've been generous with friends and family. Oh, and all that philanthropy would bring it down a bit too, but what a headache! I wonder if Camelot has it's own bank? The Bank of Camelot. That simply doesn't sound right. A bit like Toytown Bank when you were a kid and I know I wouldn't invest my hard-won cash in THAT bank!

My bike resting against a fence along Pilgrim's Lane.
I wonder if winners get offered a choice, ie would you like several cheques of £50,000 made payable to different banks and building societies? Yes, please!

Either way, it made no difference to Andy and I as we didn't win. I don't think Andy got any of the numbers and I only got number 35. In fact, the only reason I bought a Euromillions ticket (I bought two, one was a lucky dip) was because a man with no right hand in Belgravia made me a cup of tea and brought me one of the slips to fill in. I figured: man with one hand, this could be some strange soothsayer from another dimension offering me fame and fortune, so I filled it in and exchanged it for a ticket and then hoped for the best.

Andy on Pilgrims Lane, Sunday 10th October 2010.
But Andy and I cycled home, in the heat (Sunday was like a mid-summer's day) knowing we'd both be going to work on Monday and not having to worry about how we would keep track of hundreds of bank and building society accounts and fretting about how the banks might be trying to swindle us. In many ways, I think we were both glad we hadn't won the jackpot – but no, I think that's a load of old rubbish as we'd both love to have the headache of simply looking at bank statements once a month.

The lottery is like a religion, it provides false hopes to millions.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Hot weekend promised...let's make the most of it!!!

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
The weathermen are promising a hot weekend in the UK, so let's make the most of it!

Odd photograph of the week

Phil Tufnell in his pyjamas on Victoria Station

This is former England cricketer Phil 'Tuffers' Tufnell on Victoria Station last week. He's chatting by some kind of video link to Jodie Marsh, the former Sun Page Three Model who, no doubt, was somewhere equally public talking to Tuffers. There was somebody else in the conversation but his name escapes me. Either way, Tuffers was advertising some new form of three-way video telecoms system. A woman handing out Travelcard holders asked me if I had anything I'd like to ask Tuffers. My question would have been, "Why the fuck are you in your pyjamas talking to Jodie Marsh on Victoria Station in the rush hour?" Needless to say he'd have mentioned that he was getting paid a considerable sum of money for simply acting the fool. Nice work if you can get it.

Monday, 4 October 2010

To Hunger's End in Merstham...

Saturday October 2nd: Running late, by about five minutes, because I'd mislaid my keys, but I headed out towards to the top of Church Way and on to the B269 en route to Warlingham Green. Mist hung in the trees but the skies, while grey in places, let through the sun and I just knew there would be no rain. Not until later at any rate. The weather forecasters had been promising rain and later on in the day we got it, but for Andy and I it was a dry run.

We decided to go to Hunger's End, a place we'd neglected for some time. I called Jon and told him our plans but only via his voicemail. We never saw him.

Single from Merstham to Sanderstead, but I got off at Purley
Once again, I was feeling tired having been 'up north' the day before with the racehorse trainer Ginger McCain and his son Donald. No, I wasn't buying a racehorse, I was up there to write about Smithy, a racehorse owned by Heineken UK. Ginger and I sat in his living room watching Sky's coverage of the Ryder Cup. I say coverage of the Ryder Cup, it was mostly men mopping up rainwater and, of course, an eventual announcement that the tournament had ceased due to excessive rain.

The night before I'd stayed in the Cholmondeley Arms in Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) and then I was given a lift to the stables by the proprietor. I had travelled from home to Whitchurch by train and had been ripped off by Virgin Trains, having to pay a ridiculous £108 for a single ticket. Anyway, having met the horse, interviewed Ginger's brother Donald and drank a cup of tea, I made my way back to Whitchurch (what a run-down place) and a train to Crewe and then London. The return journey only cost me £60.

So I was tired (again) or at least thinking about a shorter cycle, but by the time I was on the B269, my energy reserves returned and, on reaching the green Andy and I decided to go for Hunger's End. It was 0752, getting late, but we headed off through Woldingham and down Gangers Hill but decided not to cross the A25 – which would have meant The Enterdent. Instead, we travelled along the A25, shaving off a good 20 to 30 minutes. We'd have been late had we taken our usual route, but equally, I was relieved that we were avoiding The Enterdent as I wasn't in the mood.

Hunger's End had changed. It had been given a lick of paint and the proprietor told me she was getting rid of the sofas and installing a deli. Nice idea, but I like sofas in caffs. We ordered tea and toast, we read The Sun and we spoke to the lively aunt of the proprietor who was over from Egham in Surrey as it was her 73rd birthday. The proprietor's aunt was a keen cyclist, which is probably why she was so sprightly. She's a member of the CTC, the UK's national cycling organisation (click here for more details).

After one cup of tea and a couple of slices of toast, we decided to have one more. We read The Sun, commented on the two page-three girls and that was it. Except that I was not feeling like cycling home up Markedge Lane towards Chipstead. I know, it's terrible and I did feel pangs of defeat in my decision to get the train. In fact, as the train made its way north towards it's ultimate destination, London Bridge, I resolved to get off at Purley and cycle home from there.

What was really annoying about Sunday October 3rd was our decision not to go cycling because of the expected rain. Admittedly, both Andy and I had a late night on Saturday, so going cycling wasn't really on the agenda, but when I looked out of the window at 7am, the weather was fine; it wasn't until much later that the rain started.

Early nights, then, are the order of the week and then, if there's no rain next week, we'll have a good cycle.