Sunday, 28 November 2010

I almost literally froze my bollocks off...

Trees lining Warlingham Green on Sunday November 28th 2010 some time after 8am.
The UK is currently in themidst of a nasty cold spell and it makes for a chilly cycle
 to Botley Hill – so cold we went there and back non-stop
The weathermen have been going on about the cold weather for some time and I knew that, sooner or later, I'd be exposed to it, early in the morning – when it's normally the coldest – and while on a bike (with the cold breeze on my face). But then I remembered that I'm the proud owner of one of those terrorist balaclavas; you know the sort of thing: green, holes for mouth and eyes and pretty terrifying. So, with the outside world looking like the inside of my freezer compartment, I donned long johns, scarf, jumper, jacket, teeshirt (plenty of layers) and headed outside for the bike.

In memoriam – two wooden crosses in the icy ground commemorating
Warlingham's war dead
To be honest, with all the gear on, I didn't feel at all cold and smugly set off for Warlingham Green. We'd agreed, Andy and I, to meet on the Green at 8am, mainly because I'd had a later night than expected. I texted Andy to see if he was happy to meet half an hour later than usual – and of course he was.

Unlike me, Andy doesn't have a balaclava. He set out with just a crash helmet on and had to return home to get a hat. As a result, he was about 20 minutes late, giving me time to take a photograph of myself wearing the balaclava as well as some other shots: one of an ice sculpture somebody had left on the Green and another of two small, wooden crosses in remembrance of dead soldiers.

Ice sculpture on Warlingham Green
The cold weather prompted a short burst to Botley Hill and back, non-stop, with a view to a cup of tea in the Village Café, but Andy declined the caff and I didn't fancy sitting there alone so we both cycled home. While I was smug (to myself) throughout most of the journey about how warm I was (especially when Andy said he'd have to buy a balaclava), my smugness turned to pain when I realised that I had, almost literally, frozen my bollocks off. Well, not my bollocks, but the other bit. Not only had it shrunk to the size of a cocktail sausage or, more precisely, a broken-off piece of pepperami, it was as cold as ice; so cold that it hurt. Had I been noted for acrobatics, I might have provided my cock with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation so instead I resorted to thawing it out in front of the fire (hoping that nobody passing by would have any idea of what I was doing).

Don't get me wrong, this was serious stuff and being as there was nobody else around I figured the sooner I warmed up the old chap, the better; but the old chap was having none of it and in the end I resorted to a warm shower, which sorted everything out and, after a while, I felt human again. It made me think seriously about researching whether 'willy warmers' – a novelty piece of knitwear from the 80s – were real and, if so, where could I get one.

Once Andy gets his balaclava we plan to re-name our blog as
 The Real No Visible Lyrca or, as I suggested, the Continuity No Visible Lycra.
Call the cops!
Anyway, I've made a complete recovery, you'll be glad to know. Incidentally, it takes 45 minutes to cycle from Warlingham Green to Botley Hill and back and, for me, a further 15 minutes to get home from the green. Not bad, eh? Anyway, what's that, one hour and twenty to cycle 14 miles. Is that good or bad and does it really matter?

I didn't go cycling yesterday (Saturday 27th November) because I went to Twickenham to watch England be beaten by South Africa. The final score was 21-11 and yes, it was cold. Thanks to Sky TV, however, we had a nice, warm box, and some decent food too.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Losing the Lycra-clad clods - Part Two.

"Okay, when I say the word, just chuck your bike at them," I advised Andy.
"What about yours?"
"I'll throw mine too, don't worry."
"And what's the word?"
"The word? It was a riotous television show on Channel Four, produced by Paul Ross and hosted by Mark Lamarr and that Mancunian bloke, Terry Christian."
"No, not The Word, the word, the word you're going to say that means 'chuck the bike?'"
"Oh, it's 'now'. When I say 'now' you chuck your bike."

We both lifted our bikes over our heads, and realised for the first time how heavy they were.
"Mine weighs a ton," said Andy.
"Mine too," I replied.
"Should we really be lifting our bikes over our heads? It gives them a good idea of what we're about to do."
"Good point," I said, lowering my bike. Andy followed suit.
"We'll lift them up again when they get nearer," I said, watching the two Lycra-clad figures as they approached.
"Okay. Now!" I exclaimed and both of us lifted our bikes over our heads and threw them in the general direction of the Power Rangers. The bikes both hit their targets and the two Lycra Louts were floored. It was time to run. We didn't dare look round.

"Keep running!" I exclaimed.
"I am," said Andy.
"Head over there, towards the woods; we'll lose them in there."

Behind us, the Lycra people had recovered from the shock of two mountain bikes hitting them square-on and were now mounting them and preparing for the chase.

"My God! They're on our bikes, they're still in the game," observed Andy.

Sure enough they were pedalling our way and were in pursuit. We had enough time to reach the woods and then double back on ourselves with a view to losing our pursuers. We ran along a dirt track that was hemmed in on either side by thick evergreen shrubs.

"Quick! Over there! We can hide over there!" I said, jumping off the main path with Andy close behind me.
"Now what?" asked Andy.
"We'll wait here until they pass and then double back and escape."
"But what about our bikes?"
"I hadn't thought of that," I said, touching my chin, looking skyward and wondering what to do next.
"We'll have to set a trap,"I suggested.
"We need some trip wire and then, when they retrace their steps we can knock them off their bikes."
"Our bikes."
"Yes, our bikes. We can knock them off our bikes and then jump on the bikes and get away."
"Sounds like a plan," said Andy.
We waited in the bushes.
"Hold on," said Andy. "Where are we going to get trip wire from in the woods?"
"You have a point. I know a little hardware shop on Warlingham Green, but that's quite a way from here."
"Let's just shout out, get them to come back this way and then jump them and get our bikes back," suggested Andy.
"Good idea," I said.
We both started to shout obscenities in the general direction of the vanishing Power Rangers and sure enough they stopped and retraced their route.
"They're coming back!" said Andy.
"Yes, but now we've got to jump them."
"We'll let them pass and then run up behind them," said Andy.
"Good idea."
The two Lycra-clad clods were soon within earshot and we listened intently to their conversation.
"So I thought the Legal & General package was the right one for me, bearing in mind I'd already exhasted the ISAs and I don't hold out much hope of a settlement from Equitable Life..."

We were ready for them.

"Get ready to jump and be very quiet," I said.

To be continued!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Looking back...

Hi, readers! Just a very brief one; I've been looking back on past posts and this time last year – or thereabouts – we all cycled to Woodmansterne Green after a heavy downpour of rain. Jon joined us under the gate at the church and then a racist lorry driver arrived asking for directions to somewhere. It then rained very heavily and we all got drenched on the route home – that was a year ago this coming weekend.

It's quite good looking back on past posts so check out the archive!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Woodmansterne Green on November 13 2010

Jon on Woodmansterne Green, Saturday 13 November 2010
Here's Jon on Woodmansterne last weekend (13 November 2010).

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Tatsfield Bus Stop and Tatsfield Village

A misty Tatsfield Village Green,  Sunday November 21st 2010

A low-key cycling weekend with trips out to the Tatsfield bus stop and then, on Sunday, Tatsfield Village. The weather was misty on Sunday and grey and cloudy on Saturday. No sign of Jon this weekend. More details to follow as my internet connection is bad and needs repairing.

An interesting 'installation' on the village green at Tatsfield

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I love the Guardian's Q&A page in Weekend magazine...

I love Saturdays. Once I return from my early morning cycle, I nip down to the newsagent and buy the Guardian and then return home, sit in the conservatory and read Weekend magazine; it's the best! First, I read Tim Dowling's column, then I take a brief look at Your Pictures before reading the Q&A, possibly Experience (this week's 'I nearly died after eating wild mushrooms' was good) and then I switch to the back and read the excellent Snooping around column by Anna Timms; I love Wreck of the Week and often imagine myself buying some strange and remote cottage on the Northumberland coast. I can't be bothered with Blind Date, but I love Oliver Burkeman's This column will change your life and then I read the Review section of the newspaper – or rather, I give it a quick flick through, stopping, perhaps at Author Author or one of the main features. I have to admit that I am still mourning the loss of Writers' Rooms. Why was it discontinued? I loved reading about and looking at the rooms where accomplished writers write – so if anybody on the Guardian is reading this (which I doubt) please reinstate it.

The best feature is the Q&A and I've often sat there in my conservatory answering the questions myself and suddenly thought: what a great idea! I'll answer them for the blog and invite other readers to answer the same questions. So, here's my answers – email me yours and I'll publish them too.

When were you happiest?
On holiday in the seventies in Felpham, West Sussex. Mum and dad used to rent a house right on the beach and for some reason, the sun was always shining.
What is your earliest memory?
My younger brother Jon returning, newly born, from the maternity ward, concealing a toy train under his shawl for me: I was three years old.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A tendency towards laziness and just doing nothing.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Uncalled for stroppy behaviour.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Kona Scrap dirt jumper that I bought on a credit card in 2006 and haven't stopped riding since. My pal Andy has a Kona Blast and my brother Jon a Kona Fire Mountain so perhaps I should apply for a job as a salesman with Kona UK.
Where would you like to live?
In a house on the beach on the South Coast of England.
If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
My father-in-law, Norman Woodley.
Who would play you in the film of your life?
It's a toss-up between Kevin Spacey and Nicholas Cage. Although Andy Kaufmann would do a good job if he was still alive.
What is your favourite smell?
A freshly creosoted fence; the smell of hops from a pub doorway; and the sea.
What would be your fancy dress of choice?
I don't do fancy dress parties.
What is the worst thing anyone's said to you?
Once, many years ago, a man called David Peachell told me I had little going for me when I went to see him at a recruitment agency in, if I recall correctly, Liverpool Street in London.
What do you owe your parents?
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
Anybody I was obnoxious to after one too many beers.
What does love feel like?
The answer would, out of necessity, be too pretentious for words.
What was the best kiss of your life?
With my wife when she was my girlfriend, on a bus.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Quite a lot of unsuitable expletives.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I'd go back and get a decent education – and I'd definitely go to university.
How often do you have sex?
I couldn't possibly comment.
What song would you liked played at your funeral?
Pop Music by M. "Mix me a Molotov!"
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Don't mess around at school.
Tell us a secret.
I can't, for obvious reasons.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Quick! They're coming! Head for the fields!

"Where is he?"
The deepening greyness of the sky above lent an air of foreboding to our brief excursion to Tatsfield. We'd met, as usual, on Warlingham Green and decided that the bus stop was as far as we'd be going today – there was evil in the air and we wanted no part of it.
"Who's that?"
As we headed up the deserted B269, trees on either side of us in the early stages of the ride, we both kept our eyes peeled. We were on the look-out for Lycra-clad, Power Ranger cyclists on lightweight racing bikes. You know the sort: concerned only about 'precious grams' and how fast they can get from A to B and not in the slightest bit interested in tea and cakes and riding large, cumbersome mountain bikes with no hope in hell of gettting anywhere fast, let alone be a part of the Tour de France.

"That's him! He's the culprit!"
The weather remained grey and uncertain as we broke into open ground and found ourselves exposed. Fortunately for us, there were no power ranger types to be seen; not this early at any rate. Give it half an hour, though, and they'd be out in force, chatting about pensions and golf as they made their way towards Westerham or further afield, who knows? Certainly not us; we were more concerned with reaching the shelter provided by the old wooden bus stop just outside of Tatsfield Village. 
The rain continued to hold off and both Andy and I knew we'd reach the relative safety of the bus stop where we could enjoy a cereal bar and a cup of tea, but we'd have to be careful, the Power Rangers would be out soon and that meant we'd need to be on our guard.

As we sipped our tea and threw our teabags on to the grass in front of us, we knew it wouldn't be long. And then, as if we had willed the situation into reality, two Lycra-clad Power Rangers approached riding Specialized racing bikes and chatting about Legal & General. Fortunately, we were ready for them: tea finished, cereal bars eaten and packs on our backs, we were prepared for the journey home, but we weren't ready for what happened next.

When you're a roughly-dressed, unshaven member of NoVisibleLycra, the urge to say something occasionally gets the better of you; and so it was for me this morning; I couldn't help but exclaim, within earshot, some nastiness towards our Lycra-clad enemies, not really expecting them to hear me, but they did; there was a screech of brakes and we knew they were coming after us.

"We'll never beat them on tarmac," said Andy.
"Then we'll have to go off-road," I said, mounting my trusty Kona and remembering a sticker on the side of an old Land Rover: "You can go fast, but I can go anywhere." It certainly applied on this occasion as Andy and I headed for the open ground of the fields beyond the bus stop.
"They're gaining on us," said Andy.
"I know," I said as we both positioned our bikes in the deep ruts left behind by agricultural machinery. "Stay within these tracks," I advised Andy and we pushed on, making good ground.
Suddenly, they appeared and the chase was truly on.
"Come and have a go if yer think yer hard enough!" I exclaimed, foolishly, while sticking up two fingers at our approaching adversaries. The comment angered them even more and it wasn't long before they were almost upon us.

Thick mud hindered our progress and soon we both realised that we'd have to simply turn around and fight. We stopped and reached for the heavy-duty spanners we always carried in our rucksacks in case of a puncture; they would be our only weapons, but we figured that, being concerned about their 'precious grams', the Power Rangers would have nothing heavy duty in the tools department. In short, we were sufficiently 'tooled up' and ready for them.

As they drew nearer, however, we figured that combat was not our strong point, and that they, the Power Rangers, were much fitter than us; there was, in other words, nothing for it – we'd have to wait until we could see the whites of their eyes and simply throw our bikes at them...To be continued!!!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Excuse the late post...

Large quantities of strong dark ale proved to
be my downfall at a beer festival in Manchester
I've been a bit busy of late, travelling to different parts of the UK, getting a little over-the-top drunk on one occasion and, of course, I've been in the dog house at home as a result. Anyway, things have blown over and now I've got a little time to discuss last week's cycling.

Andy and I went down to Hunger's End in Merstham on Saturday of last week, that was November 6th, and then on November 7th we headed on down to Woodmansterne, a destination we haven't visited for a long time. We met Jon there, which was good, as we hadn't seen him for a while.

Andy near Merstham taking a photo of me taking
a photo of him.
For some reason we got chatting about prison, probably something to do with my drunken antics on 29 October when I attended a beer festival and, how can I put this, I had one too many and lost control of things. I rarely get drunk these days and the whole situation was rather embarrassing – you know the score, you drink too much, you kind of go on to automatic pilot and can't remember how you got home, what you said to people on the way, that sort of thing.

When I reached home in the early hours, I must have sobered up, but I had to sleep in the spare room and you know that horrible feeling when you open your eyes, think everything is fine and then you remember? It was like that. I felt okay, a bit weary, perhaps, but I didn't have a hangover and I spent most of Saturday trying to avoid any embarassing conversation with the missus. The whole incident has put me off drinking for a while and I'm now trying my best not to drink throughout November.

This picture sums up the season here in England at
the moment. In other words, it's the autumn.
During the drunken journey home from the North, I managed to text Andy to abort the cycling as there was no way that I'd have been fit enough to get on the bike and then on the Sunday (October 31, Halloween) I think it was raining. The worst thing about the Saturday was that the weather was fine, making it all the more irritating that I'd allowed myself to get into such a state and then not be able to go. On the Sunday, got half way up Church Way when Andy called and said it was pissing down over in Caterham and then, of course, it started to rain where I was in Sanderstead, so I turned round and went home, but that was the Halloween weekend. Last week it was Merstham and Woodmansterne and it was good fun on both days.

The St Helier Arms, Carshalton. It's not there any more.
The reason we were talking about prison was something to do with me being drunk on the 29th. We moved to discuss people we knew from our school days who had since 'done time' and that moved us on to various 'faces' from the past and some dodgy, high profile criminal types currently residing in prison. From there we started talking about a notorious pub in Carshalton called the St Helier Arms, a pub that has since been knocked down but was one of those places where you couldn't avoid trouble if you made the foolish decision to go in for a beer.

Dad's not been well, which is always a little worrying, but he's on the mend now, thank God, so generally speaking, things are good. Cycling tomorrow, of course, and probably Merstham and Hunger's End and then a shorter run on Sunday – weather permitting – but I think we'll escape a soaking this weekend.