Saturday, 30 April 2011

Nearly Christmas?

Turkey on the B269 near the Botley Hill Farmhouse.

The master at work...

Andy at the Tatsfield Churchyard last weekend, taking a shot of my bike.

Tatsfield Churchyard – alright, it's becoming a bit of a habit

Friday 29 April, the day of the Royal Wedding, and Andy and I set off in the early morning sunshine for the Tatsfield Churchyard. It's going to be a busy weekend, and another long one. Today, Saturday 30 April, we're leaving later, that's why I'm here now, at 0753hrs, writing a blogpost. I'm leaving here at 0930hrs and we're heading over to Longford Lake with Andy's mate, Richard, who I last saw on the 2010 Black Horse Ride. The meeting point, as always, is Warlingham Green but we're meeting there at 1000hrs, two and a half hours later than usual, which is nice as I've managed to have breakfast and a more leisurely start.

Outside, the weather is fantastic: bright sunshine again, like yesterday. While I'd resolved not to watch any of the Royal Wedding, I ended up watching it twice, first live and then later on in the evening. I liked the Aston Martin Volante they drove off in, nice motor! If I'm honest, I rather enjoyed the wedding, but don't tell anybody.

Okay, back to Tatsfield Churchyard. I'm a little concerned as a lot of our photographs now feature headstones and, while it's peaceful and we like it, being surrounded by dead people is a bit odd as it brings home our mortality and makes us realise that life is short – all the more reason, perhaps, to enjoy our cycling, as we both do.

Yours truly at the Tatsfield Churchyard, Friday April 26th 2011.
So, today we're off to Longford Lake and we'll probably have a beer at the Bricklayers Arms, a pub that serves Harvey's, a nice pint of beer, brewed in Lewes in West Sussex. More on today later on. Oh, and here's a shot of me, taken by Andy, wandering around the churchyard. I say a shot of me, it's a shot of mulitple me, but there you have it. We've got another idea for this photographic technique, but to say anymore would spoil it.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Hot near the Bot (that's the Botley Hill Farmhouse pub)

My bike leaning against the bus stop you can see in the pic below.
Looking towards Tatsfield from the B269 near Botley Hill.

The weather has been amazing over the past couple of weeks. Today I thought I'd ride out alone to Botley Hill on a non-stop there-and-back run, bar a brief time off the bike to take the two shots above. Very pleasant and a nice breeze on the journey back along the B269.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sunrise over Caterham

The view from Andy's house yesterday at around 6am.

Easter Weekend at Tatsfield Churchyard

Our bikes at the entrance to the churchyard. Andy's photos, by the way.

The churchyard at Tatsfield is becoming a bit of a habit, in a nice way. There's something about the place that makes it an ideal destination. For a start it's a greater distance than the Tatsfield bus stop or the village centre. It's also very pleasant and not in any way morbid, although it does tend to remind us of our mortality.

Surrounded by gravestones, we sit and eat our cereal bars and drink our tea; all around us there is complete silence, unlike any other destination. In the village centre there are people buying newspapers. At the bus stop we watch other cyclists and motorists who pass by, glancing at us briefly.

The churchyard is peaceful and its inhabitants rest in peace. Only the sound of the birds tweeting can be heard and there is nothing but green fields and hedgerows in our line of vision. Once or twice, somebody appears. Yesterday a woman tending the grave of her former partner. The day before there was a man mowing the lawns surrounding the headstones, but that was it.

Andy's bike by our bench in the sun.
The result of such serenity? We've been heading out there all weekend, cycling down Clarks Lane and veering off the main road and up some shaded steps to our favourite spot.

There were plans to visit Longford Lake and attempt the infamous Footpath to Dunton Green, but pressures at home for yours truly – along the lines of there are not enough hours in the day and it being the last day of the Easter holidays – meant that we headed out for the churchyard instead.

My bike resting on the wall of the church hall.
The weather has been amazing here in the UK. According to the weather people on the television recently, it's been as hot as Alice Springs (take note, Simon). I reckon that thechurchyard would be fairly unpleasant in bad weather. Not only would it resemble a scene from a spooky movie, but it would also mean that Andy and I would get a soaking – there's no cover. However, in the fine weather it's probably the most enjoyable destination we know that's nearby.

All of which prompts the question: what is the best destination we visit? Well, it's all a matter of opinion as they all have their benefits. I'd say, in terms of the most attractive venue, that Longford Lake probably takes the prize: the huge lake, the pub, the green (we're going there next Saturday lunch time with Andy's mate Richard). Then there's the bus stops both in and outside of Tatsfield. On a cold and wet day, I guess they would take priority over anywhere else, as they are the only places that offer cover and protection from the rain. Mind you, I was forgetting Hunger's End where not only is there cover and protection from the elements, but a decent caff and I don't have to bring my rucksack. In other words, it's swings and roundabouts.

My bike still has faulty brakes and gears and yes, I'm still out of work, which is a real pisser. Other than that, things are relatively fine. The weather here in the UK has been amazing over the last week or so. Good weather makes cycling even more fun than normal as it means we don't have to wear our winter clothes. This weekend, Andy even managed to wear his shorts. I dressed in my normal garb – that rust-coloured jacket – but dispensed with the jumper and gloves.

It was a good weekend for cycling and there's another long bank holiday next weekend, courtesy of the Royal Wedding (Prince William and Kate Middleton next Friday) although I'll be doing my level best not to watch any of it. For Andy, two bank holidays in a row have meant eleven days off. He took three days off this coming week – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – and gets to be off work for eleven whole days. Me? I'm off work permanently so holidays are meaningless at present.

Monday, 18 April 2011

More shots of the Tatsfield churchyard

"And did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England's pastures green.'

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Peace, tranquility...and chocolate biscuits

Andy took this shot roughly from where we were sitting.

We rode to Tatsfield Village again on Sunday, but decided not to sit at the bus stop opposite the pub and instead cycled through the village towards the church, which is virtually on Clarks Lane near the track leading down to the golf course.

We cycled into the churchyard and both decided that it was the most tranquil spot we'd ever stumbled across; it even beats Longford Lake, which, up until now, had been, arguably the best place to get out the tea and cereal bars, and today Andy brought along some rather tasty chocolate biscuits too.

Yours truly with the bikes.

Me and my shadow...

I can't live with myself anymore.
Yesterday we met early at Warlingham Green as Andy was going to Brands Hatch with his brother. With a short ride in mind, we headed for the Tatsfield Bus Stop where Andy took this rather odd, but amusing, shot of yours truly getting annoyed with himself.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tatsfield Village and Godstone Green

The lake on Godstone Green
With faulty gears and a dodgy rear brake, I set off for Warlingham Green this morning to meet Andy with a view to visiting Godstone Green. Yesterday we went to Tatsfield Village. The weather's been tremendous this week: blue skies and sunshine; and soon it will time for the the Black Horse Ride (details to follow soon).

Godstone is a pig of a ride on the return trip as there's a steep hill that's impossible if your gears aren't working. I dismounted and Andy felt obliged to follow suit, not because he couldn't hack it, but because those are the rules – NVL members never leave a friend behind. I should have remembered the classic movie line, "Go on without me," but I didn't.

While on the green we did what we always do: drink tea, munch cereal bars and discuss whatever comes into our minds. Today it was the News of the World phone hacking scandal. I can't remember what we chatted about yesterday, although it was probably something to do with work and jobs and how, in answer to the question, "What would you say is your biggest weakness?" we would answer, "Doughnuts."
Tree in blossom at Godstone Green

Andy at Godstone Green
The village pond at Tatsfield.

I'm going to start perusing the map book again as it would be good to find a new route somewhere. I'm thinking about taking Andy on the notorious 'Footpath to Dunton Green'.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Hot weather means it's not bleak at The Botley Hill

The Scrap at the Botley Hill Farmhouse, 7 April 2011 – check out that blue sky.
Took a lonely cycle up to the Botley Hill at 1.30pm today. I reached my destination at 2.16pm and got home by 2.50pm. What a great day! Virtually clear blue skies, a mild but pleasant breeze and hardly any traffic on the B269.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Saturday 2nd April – Hunger's End

A new day.
It's weird when you haven't been somewhere for a long time and then, when you get there, you discover that nothing's changed and that life is carrying on just the same as if you hadn't been there. It got me thinking about that philosophical school of thought based on how life only exists in terms of what you're seeing at any one moment, or the idea that reality is made up of whatever your own mind constructs, that your brain, like a very complex computer, is developing reality as it goes along: you turn a corner and your brain constructs the reality that you think is facing you. Oddly, everybody's brain seems to be constructing the same reality. So if Andy and I are cycling to Merstham, as we did yesterday, we're both seeing and feeling the same things rather, say, than Andy seeing herds of Wilder beast crossing a vast prairie, and me seeing the M23 and a few semi-rural fields.

Heading down Gangers Hill towards the A25 and Godstone.
Right now I'm sitting in front of a computer in my conservatory, typing this blogpost, and that, for the moment, is my reality. I don't know of anything else existing outside of what I'm looking at; for all I know my wife and daughter, who I assume are upstairs, aren't upstairs at all, they don't exist, nor does anybody else. Except, of course, I know that they do exist – don't I? Andy at this very moment, I'm assuming, is, like me, out of bed and preparing for today's cycle. My mum and dad are probably sitting by their patio window, looking out on the garden and sipping tea, listening, perhaps, to Radio Four. But these are all assumptions based on the construct of my own reality. Perhaps none of it exists and the world outside of what I can see here in the conservatory is a blank screen, white noise, nothing more.

I cycled towards the station but ended up turning round and cycling home.
The best example I can give of these thought processes is, oddly, an animated children's movie called The Wrong Trousers, starring Wallace and Gromit. There's a moment where Gromit (the dog) is sitting on a steam engine when the track on which the train is running simply stops and Gromit is required to throw pieces of track in front of the train to keep it moving and, thereby, making up his reality as he goes along.

There's a great book by Philip K Dick entitled Ubik, in which the nature of reality is questioned (as it is in most PKD novels) and the whole notion of creating reality as we move along is encapsulated by the character of Jory Miller, a 12-year-old boy 'living' in a state of 'chill half-life' in between life and death.

This is all a bit heavy for Sunday morning at 0631 and I can't for the life of me figure out how it all came into my head, but there you have it.

Back at Hunger's End, then, it was as if we'd never been away. The place looked the same as we arrived at 0910, except that we had to wait for the two women who worked there to put out the tables and chairs (we always sit outside). Both of us ordered two slices of toast with jam and a couple of mugs of tea and then chatted about my current job situation. It's all very boring to be honest and I wish I just had a job, but I don't. At home, we're all under a lot of stress as the money runs out in about 28 days and when you've got a 12-year-old in the house who simply doesn't understand the concept of not having any money, it's not good.

We sat there for about an hour in the end and then moved off. Andy cycled home and I made for the station, having decided to catch the train home. But I just couldn't do it for some reason. I cycled along Station Road, deep in thought about my decision to catch the train and eventually I decided not to; I turned around and headed back up the road and off home via Fanny's Farm. For some reason, I had a lot of energy and enough power to take every hill, especially Markedge Lane, but then later the steep side of West Hill, with ease (considering I only have eight gears at the moment).

Andy took this shot of Warlingham Green yesterday at around 0730hrs.
What would have happened had I taken the train, I wonder? Would it have crashed with all passengers killed and I wouldn't be here now, writing this post? There was nothing in the news. Would I have met somebody who would have offered me a job? Who knows? And that, of course, is another school of thought: the fact that simple decisions are life-changing. If I turn left instead of right, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for me  – and everybody else's lives change too. Imagine that for a moment: you turn left instead of right and then, whoever you see on the road sees you and you become a part of their lives. You might in some way influence their actions during the day and a whole myriad of miniscule decision-making processes turns the world into what it is.

There's a great book, that I never finished, entitled The End of Eternity by Asimov, which deals with this subject. I think I might make another attempt at reading it.