Monday, 31 December 2012

Garner's Pickled Onions – a very poor show!

We're nearing the end of that dead time between Christmas and New Year and there's no cycling today. It's been raining ever since I woke up and it's still raining now. One thing that has characterised 2012 is rain. Since April it's been virtually non-stop, meaning that those greedy sons of bitches over at the water company have absolutely no reason whatsoever to announce a hosepipe ban – they'll have to find other ways of funding their extensions and foreign holidays.

What I do like about the festive season is sitting around doing nothing but watching schmaltzy movies on the television, normally American. There's one on now starring Adam Sandler, but it can't be any good as I've spotted British comedian Russell Brand – he who is not funny, full stop, and is famous only for a ridiculous haircut - although he's a pretty good writer, it has to be said.

Garner's Pickled Onions – no longer the Jesus of Cool.
Anyway, the festive season. I love it! It's the only time of year when you can eat mince pies mid-morning and have a brandy and ginger wine in the afternoon, along with a pickled onion, some stilton and a few cheese biscuits. Mind you, I'm a bit disappointed this year with Garner's Pickled Onions. They used to be the cream of the crop as far as pickled onions were concerned. I love them because they're crunchy and tangy and a million times better than other brands on the market. Until now!

I bought a jar of Garner's from Waitrose the other day and when I opened it and tucked in, the pickled onion I chose was horrible. So horrible. So SOFT! So horrible (and soft) that I had to spit it out (I rarely spit out food). I had to dig around for a nice crunchy pickled onion, which is not normally the case with a jar of Garner's as they're all crunchy. And hell! Let's be honest here: there's nothing more disappointing than a soft pickled onion. Nothing!

I'll be thinking twice the next time I consider purchasing a jar of Garner's. I'll have to ask mum to make some pickled onions – they're genuinely crunchy. When you tuck in to pickled onions, you need something a little challenging. My mum's pickles were the nearest to a challenging snack item (if you excuse those extra fizzy Haribo sweets) and I was elated, some years back, when I discovered Garners. They were the nearest mass-produced version of my mum's pickles on the supermarket shelves and now they've gone and blotted their copy book – BIG TIME!

What else have I been eating? Ah yes! Stilton! A once-a-year indulgence, but worth every penny! Oh, and paté, lovely with a bit of bread or some cheese biscuits.

Right now it's really coming down outside. The rain. We've got a nice pre-prepared curry on the go and I've just had a large glass of red wine. I'm going to have another. Then what? Well, how about a New Year's party down in the sticks?

I'd better sign off. It's lunch time. Well, it's 1415hrs so a late lunch time, but I'm still smarting about the Garner's. I'm going out there in a second and I'm having another one and it better not be soft or I'll, I'll, I'll get even somehow, you mark my words.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

More urban ride images – the waterfall in Grove Park

The waterfall, Grove Park, Carshalton, Surrey, holds many childhood memories.

More urban ride images...

Playing fields which extend for miles and miles on the outskirts of a housing estate.

Urban Ride – take two (12 miles)

While I was up at 0600hrs, I loitered about and didn't hit the road until 0830hrs after tea and peanut butter sandwiches, well, one peanut butter sandwich. In fact, I loitered with one intention – not to go cycling, but in the end I persuaded myself that a ride was needed. Outside, the weather was looking good: clear blue skies and no sign of rain clouds.
Urban ride, urban imagery – where's some graffiti when you need it?

The big debate going on in my head was where to go – the Tatsfield Bus Stop or the urban ride over to Carshalton to see mum. I chose the latter and headed down West Hill, turning left on to the Upper Selsdon Road and then left into Helder Street before a right on to the Brighton Road and then first left and up the hill towards the roundabout on Pampisford Road.

I travelled past a vast expanse of playing fields, skirting around the edge of a housing estate and then crossing the A23 and turning right towards Five Ways. I hung a left into the industrial estate, followed the road round on to the Stafford Road and headed towards the top of Wallington High Street. The lights were red but soon they were green and I went straight across, the gym on my left, heading down towards the mini roundabout at Boundary Road and hanging a right towards Carshalton High Street. A left turn at the lights took me on to Ruskin Road, past Carshalton Park, into Benyon Road and across the lights at the Windsor Castle, past Wanash Gardens (a block of flats) past the BP Garage and right into Alma Road. At the bottom a left turn on to Shorts Road, under the railway bridge and left on to Westmead Corner and then left again into Rossdale.
I stopped for a breather on the industrial estate

An ambulance was parked up outside the house of 'Uncle' John's house. Real name, John Clark, a former teacher, and his wife Beth. John Clark is now 83 and the ambulance was for him. But all was fine and soon the ambulance and its paramedics were gone. I enjoyed a cup of tea and a few biscuits with mum and then headed back, using a different route. I went into Shorts Road but took Dog Shit Alley to West Street and then cut through Grove Park, coming out at the far end of Carshalton High Street and riding towards Wallington Green and the Duke's Head pub.

I crossed the lights by the pub, past Wallington Grammar School on my left and onwards to Beddington Park, also on my left, followed by The Plough, another Young's pub on the Croydon Road and then up to the T-junction where I turned right towards Five Ways and then second left up Denning Road, through the housing estate and emerging on the Bramley Hill roundabout. I went straight across, hung a right into Nottingham Road, past Whitgift School and down to the lights on the Brighton Road where I turned right and headed towards the Esso garage where I turned left and made my way to the Upper Selsdon Road.

I cycled past the Conservative Club, past the old Rail View pub (now simply The View) and then under the railway bridge, right into Carlton Road, left into Essenden Road, right into West Hill and home.

I ate porridge with more peanut butter and a mug of tea followed by a wash, shave and shower and then off to Pimlico to have lunch with some relatives – a very, very tasty curry.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Heavy winds slow us down

At 0600hrs this morning it was windy. I could hear it rattling the house as I plodded around making tea and a peanut butter sandwich. Oddly, when I peaked through the net curtains in the bedroom the world outside was still and – more importantly – dry.
The B269 looking North from the Botley Hill pub.

Once outside, the true power of the wind made itself known as I struggled against it riding up Church Way and then along the Limpsfield Road towards Warlingham Green. It slowed me down considerably and I called Andy to let him know that I was en route but pedalling into the wind.

Had it been raining, I would have felt like a North Sea trawler captain standing at the wheel on the bridge of the small vessel, facing swollen seas and driving rain. It seemed to take an age to get anywhere, but eventually the Green showed itself and there was Andy.

Mobile phones are now so commonplace everybody takes them for granted, I thought as I cycled towards the Green, but when I was a kid one of my great little fantasies was having a real walkie talkie, as we called them. The very idea of contacting my pals using our own communications system was my idea of fun.

Back in the day, the nearest I came to having my own walkie talkie was two yoghurt cartons connected together by a piece of string. Having a mobile phone, of course, is just like having your own walkie talkie and as I dialled Andy prior to reaching the Green, memories of walkie talkie fantasies flooded back to me.

We headed towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop in the wind and progress was slow, but the weather was truly invigorating. The wind picked up and then quietened down and repeated the process all the way to our destination, although it seemed to die down a little once we seated and tucking in to our mince pies, cereal bars and tea.

We watched passing cars and cyclists for a while and noticed that the wind, while slightly milder than it had been on our outward journey, had calmed down a little as we prepared to head back home.

When we reached Botley Hill the weather was fantastic. Fast-moving cloud overhead, a strong wind behind us most of the way and there was no sign of rain. I felt great all the way down the 269. I waved farewell to Andy as he branched off halfway along and I continued towards Warlingham and then Sanderstead, enjoying the freshness of the air – a truly great day and the weather was excellent.

There had been rain, but it must have been early in the morning as there were puddles everywhere. Now, as I write this at 1523hrs, there has been more rain and it's damp and grey outside and there are spots of rain on the conservatory window.

Andy's just sent a text saying he won't be cycling tomorrow or Monday, meaning that I'll have to motivate myself. The key is to get out there. If I can cover just 10 miles I'll be happy so let's hope for no rain. I'd like to go everyday from now until New Year's Day, but for now I'll concentrate on motivating myself for tomorrow.

Friday, 28 December 2012

27th December – rain stops play (but we get drenched)

When I left the house at just gone 0700hrs the weather seemed fine: a little cloudier than Boxing Day but relatively warm and nothing to worry about. It had been raining, but I figured there would be no more and we would reach the bus stop dry. How mistaken was I?

Andy and met at the green as usual and then headed off towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop. Within 15 minutes we were huddled under a tree on the 269 debating whether to abort the ride. The rain grew steadily heavier and we could see the droplets hitting the puddles in the gutters. At some stage I remarked to Andy that the Tatsfield Bus Stop was the next (and only) cover.
At this point on the 269 we decided it was time to head back home

Oddly, I was prepared to go for it, but when Andy suggest we take a rain check (it was definitely raining) we stood for a minute under an ever-green tree and considered our position.

"Let's see if it stops," I said.
"It normally carries on all day," Andy replied.

Turning back is not something NoVisibleLycra likes to do, but there are occasions when it's the only option. It was a fair distance to the bus stop and had we continued we would have been drenched, making sitting down at the bus stop an unpleasant experience.

"Let's head back," I said.

We headed back towards the Green, said goodbye and vowed to go cycling today (28th December) but I decided to abort last night. To be honest, I needed a lie-in. It turned out to be a good 'abort' for two reasons: one, I had a broken night with people returning home from nightclubs at 2am in the morning and not saying goodbye to their female companions until 0445hrs in the morning; and two, when I did wake up around 0820 hrs it was raining.

It's now 0917hrs and it's still raining. I seriously doubt if Andy went out.

I'm having a problem with my rear light – it won't switch off. When I went out to the garage yesterday morning it had somehow switched itself on and remained on through the night. How it did this I don't know, but I dismantled it, pressed the on-off button a couple of times and it seems to be working again.

Let's see what Saturday brings.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day sunrise...

Sunrise by Andy Smith
I was running a little late this morning on account of being disorganised. What's new? Andy and I met at Warlingham Green at around 0745hrs and headed off towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop where we enjoyed tea, cereal bars and mince pies. There was little in the way of traffic, which was good, 

Halfway along the 269 Andy stopped to take this shot of the sunrise across the fields. 

We're planning on riding out every day this week, weather permitting. Over the Christmas period there has been a lot of rain and it must have rained heavily overnight as there were puddles everywhere, but, like last night, there were clear skies and no sign of rain as we rode along.

On the return trip Andy branched off halfway along the 269 and I carried on towards Sanderstead as usual. Hopefully, the weather won't let us down for the rest of the week.

Being Boxing Day, I'm off to mum's shortly for the 'Boxing Day Bash'. Andy's going to see his mum this afternoon too.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Heavy rain...and bad television

Christmas used to be characterised by the Morecambe & Wise Christmas special and shows from other celebs of the time in the days before celebrity had been invented. Today, the festive season is loosely knitted together by rubbish television with plenty of repeats from the days before celebrity, vis a vis the aforementioned Morecambe & Wise Christmas Show.

In short, like the weather this Christmas, the TV has been a wash-out. I am writing this on Boxing Day morning at 0638hrs. Outside there are clear skies and twinkling stars and last night, high in the sky, was a full moon. Now, it's pleasant, but it hasn't stopped raining. Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day it's been torrential. I say 'most of Christmas Day' but that might be an exaggeration; certainly Christmas morning.
Got to hand it to Eastenders last night. I never watch it, but it was excellent.

We're off on a ride this morning. Just a short one, possibly the bus stop, but a ride nonetheless and it's good to note that the weather has improved. It's dry on the roads, which means there's a chance that we won't be soaked through.

Back to television, it's been abominable. Christmas Eve consisted of old, good-in-their-time sitcoms: Dad's Army, Porridge and so on plus a few highlights-based shows, which are generally a cop-out and, of course, cookery and chat shows. Jonathan Ross was terrible, with 'old' guests, such as Jamie Oliver (we've had more than enough of him) and Michael McIntryre who, in small doses, is alright, but I felt that even he was scraping the barrel of comedy to appear 'funny'.

Most of the movies, like Pixar's The Incredibles, we have on DVD and even the new Raymond Briggs creation, a kind of re-run of the excellent short movie, The Snowman, left a lot to be desired. While the original had a certain elegance, the new version was left with little to play with; for a start it ran for the customary 30 minutes and then, what can a snowman do in that short period of time? Answer: roughly the same as he did in the original: he flew off to a strange land full of other snowmen and then flew back and melted. Except that this time it wasn't so moving. The music had been brought up-to-date, sadly, and lacked the class of the original, which was very moving from beginning to end. The new film, while excellent on the animation front, was seriously lacking and when it ended, I felt cheated.

While I haven't sat and watched an episode of Eastenders since Phil was first shot (somebody told me he has been shot again, but I'm refering to the first time) I did watch the Christmas episode which, arguably, was the best thing on the box last night – and believe me that's saying something coming from me as I hate Eastenders with a vengeance, I can't stand any of the characters and I believe that the whole show epitomises the prevailing attitude and culture of the UK and its inhabitants – greed, beligerence and bubbling-under-the-surface bad temper.

Can't sit here gassing, I've got a ride to attend to. Will post again later.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A hard rain is gonna fall..

...or rather a hard rain IS falling. There's a blustery wind too and it hasn't let-up for some time. By now, of course, there would have been 'abort' texts flying between mine and Andy's mobile phones, but today it's irrelevant as we're not planning on a ride. Our next outing will be Boxing Day, when hopefully the weather will have picked up, ie no rain.

I'm in my usual place, sitting in the conservatory listening to the rain hitting the flat roof above me and looking out on the bare trees swaying to and fro in the wind. It wouldn't be pleasant on a bike today and you can bet that any cyclist out there will be wearing wet and shiny trousers. Fortunately, it's not cold.

Instead of going out, I've been scrolling back through old posts and I've realised how stagnated we've become. By that I mean we're no longer pushing the boundaries, heading out for Merstham (the long way) via the infamous Enterdent or heading down Jackass Lane to Tandridge via off-road routes. This, of course, is because of time constraints, but in the new year we ought to be heading for these places again and, indeed, trying my new route to Redhill (which avoids the A23).

Also available in bright red.
I get the impression that the rain will continue for most of the day and at some stage I've got to drive to the garage to put air into the offside front tyre of our Picanto. Yes, I'm the (ahem) proud owner of a Kia Picanto, which, to be fair, is alright for driving around town. The only problem is that it looks like Postman Pat's car – it's bright red. All we need is a black and white cat and I've seen one in Robert Dyas, but couldn't be bothered to spend the money.

If you recall (although I might not have written about it) my own black BMW was written off when some complete idiot whammed into the back of it back in September time. We went without a car for about a month or two and spent our weekends on buses travelling to car showrooms to look at cars, none of which really appealed: they were either too expensive for what they were or simply not right for us – or both.

We looked at a Ford Focus, an old Mercedes, a Vauxhall Vectra and many others until we decided on the safe bet, the Picanto. The only problem with it is that it's not the sort of car to travel long distances. Or rather it will go the distance but not at any great speed and certainly not in comfort, like the old Beamer. Still, it's a car and for the moment it'll have to do. The key thing is that it gets my daughter to school, which was always the main consideration.

For a minute I thought the rain had stopped. It hasn't.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Tatsfield Bus Stop

The pond at Sanderstead.
Went on a ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, virtually non-stop as I had no tea to drink and I was riding alone. Fairly busy going through Sanderstead High Street, but it thinned out as I headed along the 269 towards Botley Hill. Good weather too, as the above photograph of Sanderstead pond illustrates. Note the blue skies and cotton wool clouds reflected in the lake.

The Kona at the Tatsfield Bus Stop

I'm going to try and ride daily from Boxing Day in a bid to lose some weight and keep a little fitter than I have been – but let's see if I can find the self-motivation needed.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Warlingham Green's festive spirit

Christmas tree on Warlingham Green.
This photograph marked the start of our ride to the Tatsfield Churchyard on the weekend of the 8th and 9th December. We cycled back through Tatsfield Village to see if the village tree was up, but it wasn't. Last year's Tatsfield tree wasn't switched on when we cycled past it around a year ago.

The Kona on the urban ride

The Kona on Saturday 15th December during a nice urban ride.

Photograph of the Week...from Oslo

An interesting statue I stumbled across in Oslo on Friday 14th December

Urban ride....on Saturday 15th December

"I'm not cycling today. I sent you an email. Enjoy your ride." There was a smiley face after the message, I noticed, as I stood on the doorstep, rucksack on back. But there was no point in going back in the house. I was outside now so I might as well make the most of it. Had Andy's text arrived any earlier (following one from me stating that I'd be ten minutes late) then I might have said no to a ride, but I'd done the hard bit – woken myself up and made the tea – so I resigned myself to a ride.
Through the industrial estate off the A23 heading towards Stafford Road.

And I was pleased with my self-motivation, although a little unsure of where I was going to go; definitely a short ride to the bus stop was my first thought, but I considered an urban ride to Carshalton (a 12-miler there and back) to see mum and have some breakfast. It was a good ride. The weather was good too and it was easily one of those mornings when everything seems right. Cycling is a very spiritual thing and I was feeling uplifted by the freedom of it all as I cut through the industrial estate off the A23 and headed down Stafford Road towards the top of Wallington High Street.

The traffic was building but it wasn't anywhere near troublesome and I reached mum's at around 0800hrs. After placing the Kona in the garage to keep it out of sight from thieves (if there were any in a tiny Carshalton cul de sac at such an hour) I went in for breakfast and four cups of tea, courtesy of my own flask and teabags.

Breakfast at mum's. What could be finer after an urban ride on the Kona?
Breakfast consisted of a boiled egg and fingers, some bread and marmalade and Alpen. Mum and I chatted about this and that and then I headed home, going back through the famous Dog Shit Alley, through Grove Park and out on to Acre Lane towards Wallington Green then up towards Five Ways, through the council estate (along Denning Road) and then a brief spurt on the Brighton Road before hanging a left and joining the Selsdon Road towards home.

On Sunday, Andy and I cycled to the Tatsfield Bus Stop.

Minus 12 and snowing, but it doesn't phase the Norwegians

The 1505 Oslo to Skien train leaves Torp...and check out that snow!
A bit of snow or the wrong kind of leaves and it all comes to a standstill in the UK, but not in Norway. Last week, while in Oslo, the temperature plummeted to minus 12 degrees, but guess what? The trains were on time and so were the planes.

Snow on the tarmac, but we were ready for departure

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The view from my Oslo hotel window...

Proof, if any was needed, that international travel isn't what it's cracked up to be.

In Oslo...

Lone figure in the snow. Shot taken from my hotel.
In many ways, December is probably the best month to visit Oslo because it's cold and there's plenty of snow on the ground. In fact, it's minus 12 degrees here and there's a light dusting of snow everywhere.

I flew in here yesterday on a Norwegian Air flight from Gatwick, which was very, very smooth and took just under 90 minutes. I'm staying at the Anker Hotel in the centre of town and it's very good. There's no restaurant, which is a bit of a bind, although it means I have to go out (in the cold) to find something to eat.

I wandered around for a bit, being careful of my footing. The worst thing about Dr. Martens shoes is that they have slippery soles. I managed not to fall over and eventually found a nice Italian trattoria just across from the hotel where I enjoyed a glass of Cabernet Sauvigon with some Italian ham and a very pleasant and colourful risotto.

The restaurant was crowded and, as always when I travel on business, I was the only one dining alone with just a copy of Chavs by Owen Jones to keep me company. Although, having said that, the light was poor so I resorted to simply enjoying the ambience of the place.

I'm really sad, but I love this photograph.

I write this from the ground floor of the hotel where the WiFi (which is free) seems to get a better reception than when I'm in the room. Outside now it's cold and white and there's not many people around.

Somebody told me that the temperature was up on yesterday's minus 12. Today I think it's hovering around minus 3 or 4 and believe me, you can tell the difference. It was snowing this morning when I went out to buy razors and toothpaste.

Two paragraphs back, the one starting 'I write this from the ground floor...' it was the morning of the 13th December. Now, two paragraphs later on, it's 1750hrs in the evening and I'm back in the same place I was sitting earlier, listening to Amy Winehouse, which is on the sound system, and drinking a glass of Frydenlund, a Norwegian beer. Alright, lager. My work is now done and I'm taking it easy, checking emails, writing emails, that sort of thing.

You might be wondering about the shot of the toothpaste. It's like this: when I was in Qatar the other week I didn't have any toothpaste so the hotel gave me the small tube of Colgate. I've never seen a tube of toothpaste so small. I mean, I've heard of Tinie Tempah, but never Tiny Toothpaste, but there it is in all it's glory. Zendium is a Norwegian toothpaste brand, by the way. I know, I'm sad. Very sad.

The hotel's not bad at all, although, as I mentioned earlier, no restaurant. I am beginning to wonder whether the Anker Hotel has a letter missing somewhere.
Room 520 in all its glory. Nice hotel, despite no restaurant, but it does have a bar.

I like Norway. I like all the Scandinavian countries. The people are laid back. I was going to say 'cool' but that would be an understatement with snow on the ground and temperatures below zero. What is refreshing is the way the Norwegians deal with the poor weather. They get on with it. The trains and the buses continue to run, the workmen in the streets continue drilling. Life goes on and doesn't come to a standstill.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Happy Birthday to me!

Here's a very young me with all those exciting birthdays
ahead of me.
I always keep quiet about my birthday these days, mainly because, once beyond the age of 15 they have become progressively less exciting. In fact, the moment somebody suggested that I should be asking for clothes for my birthday – instead of train sets and toy soldiers – it was time to crawl under a stone and die. Well, perhaps that's a bit dramatic, but when socks and underpants become a key focus it's time for something. Time, perhaps, to admit that I should grow up?

For me, however, socks and underpants are things I should buy as a matter of course and should never be considered as birthday present territory. It's like waking up to a wrapped present, opening it and discovering a box of 80 English Breakfast teabags or a tube of toothpaste, shaving foam or toilet paper. Imagine gift-wrapping your weekly shop for somebody: a tin of baked beans, an orange, a loaf of bread...whatever next?

So, these days, birthdays go and come (but Earth abides) and they are nothing more than another day in the calender. There was a time when my adult birthday meant quite a lot. I had a pal who shared the same birthday – rather annoyingly he was one year younger than me and if he's reading this, Happy Birthday – and we used to make a weekend of it: a few days in Suffolk with our respective other halves, a curry, a few beers, some invigorating walks in the countryside; but those days are long gone and now, as I sit here looking out on what is a fairly pleasant day (I'm off work today) I'm looking forward to doing 'practical' things, like a bit of Christmas shopping.

I hate the word 'practical' as it shares the stage with 'sensible' and the phrase 'grown-up'. And, of course, they're all things I should be by now: practical, sensible and grown-up. In many ways I am all three: I'm married, I have kids, a mortgage and so on, but I yearn for the old days of childhood when there was little to worry about and plenty to look forward to. Now I'm sounding miserable, which I'm not and to be honest with you, what the hell would I do with a train set today? Where would I put it for a start? If I did have one, I'd be taken right back to my childhood and my mum telling me to take it upstairs 'out of harm's way' – except it would be my wife telling me to grow up and why did I waste the money on a train set when I could have bought (ahem) a washable suit from Marks & Spencer?

In the old days, once a toy went upstairs it found itself sharing the same status with the older toys from Birthdays and Christmases past; it was no longer the new kid on the block as it was on Christmas morning.

When I lived at home with mum and dad and my sister and brother, Christmas was a big, big thing. Dad would arrange our new toys in the living room and when we tip-toed our way downstairs around 4am to see what 'Father Christmas' had brought us we would be presented with what amounted to the window display of Hamley's in Regent Street. However, the person whose toys were on the dining table had to find space somewhere else in the room as lunch time approached and that would mean finding an unoccupied corner and attempting a reconstruction of dad's inspired display (it was never as good). Far better if your toys were already on the floor, somewhere away from the television and out of harm's way (as mum might say).

Christmas, of course, was far more egalatarian than a birthday. With the latter, one person was in the spotlight: the birthday boy or girl. One could say, of course, that on Christmas Day Jesus was the birthday boy, but most people have lost the true meaning of the festive season, which these days is more about greed, getting drunk at the Christmas party and then going on a diet during the month of January.

My dad tried to make birthdays more egalitarian than they would otherwise have been by giving smaller presents to whoever wasn't celebrating a birthday. This made other people's birthdays quite exciting as, on 10 December, my brother and sister knew they would be getting a present too, which made things a little more bearable for them when the 'birthday boy or girl' was parading around like Lord Snooty, getting out of doing virtually anything because it was their birthday.

There came a time, however, when the birthday cards would have to come down and make way for the Christmas cards and this was always a sad moment as it meant that my ever-diminishing 'birthday boy' status had finally ran out of juice and wouldn't be getting new batteries for another 52 weeks.

Being born on 10 December is better than you might think, mainly because it's just far enough away from Jesus' birthday to warrant separate presents. In the old days it meant that the month of December was a rollercoaster of fun as nobody would dare to suggest a 'joint birthday and Christmas present', the scouge of all December-born people. If you were born any later than the 10th, the risk of a joint present was very real.

But now, as I look out on the world from my conservatory window – it's a bright day with a mix of blue sky and cotton wool clouds against which the branches bare trees are silhouetted – all of these concerns of yesteryear are irrelevant and mere memories that bring a smile to my face. I've been fortunate enough never to have received a joint birthday and Christmas present and, over the years, I've had some great toys. My toy fort (known as Black Cross Fort) still lives round at mum's; my remote-controlled Tiger Tank – which once entered a disused war-time mortuary in our local Grove Park in Carshalton – is a pleasant (and mildly harrowing) memory and there are many other great gifts that made 10 December a special day. In other words, I'm not bitter and I'm not miserable (well, not about my birthday).

In short, I'm a grown-up with my own children to think about. My only child-like fun these days revolves around cycling at the weekends on my Kona Scrap, which is far from a sensible choice of bike and for this reason, I love it. I'm rambling now, so I'm going to stop and enjoy the rest of my day.

For a related article, click here.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Snow falls over London...and then disappears!

December 5th 2012, snow started falling around 0730hrs.

It's snowing in London and here's photographic evidence from my back garden to prove it.

With the snow falling outside I figured it best to find the warmest coat in the cupboard and put on the old walking boots. It was a good move, but only for the walk to the station. Snow was everywhere, cars were driving slowly to avoid skidding and I trod carefully as I made my way to the station, thinking: there won't be any cycling this weekend.

However, once on the train, which was running on time, and then, later, when I reached Redhill, the snow had disappeared. By lunch time there was nothing – although I heard that very little snow fell on Redhill – and when I reached home, it was as if there hadn't been any snow.

Still, my golden rule will always apply: once it snows, you can bet your life there will be more.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Frosty and cold...

A cold-looking moon matched the weather.
Saturday was so cold that Andy and I had trouble speaking as we rode along. There was a thick frost on the grass when I left the house, later than usual due to faffing about, and the cold air assaulted my face all the way to the Green.

Halfway along I called Andy to say I was only a couple of minutes away from the Green, but it seemed that he too had been faffing about as he was roughly the same distance from our meeting point. In fact, he'd already had a bit of a morning. The lock on his garage door had frozen so he rummaged about for a match to heat it and then, having retrieved his bike he closed and locked the garage door only to notice, out of the corner of his eye, that his bike was falling to the ground. In an attempt at rescuing it, he grabbed it by the rear mudguard, which promptly snapped off.

We headed out towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop, it was too cold to go anywhere else, and sat there warming ourselves with hot tea, cereal bars and this week a bag of Cheeselets supplied by Andy. Very nice. Along the way we briefly discussed possible destinations with cafés, but could think of none within seven miles from the Green. There was the farm shop at Godstone, but that meant a steep climb on the return journey and neither of us fancied it; then there was Westerham, a bridge too far in this cold; and we figured the caff at the reptile centre would be closed – when was it ever open, I wondered?

A cold sky and bare bushes. Winter has settled in.
"Imagine cycling home naked," I said later, looking out from the Tatsfield Bus Stop.
"You'd die of hypothermia," said Andy, matter of factly.
"You reckon?"
"I wonder if you'd get to Botley?"
"Yes, but you wouldn't feel too good."
"Imagine if you'd been camping out all night. You wouldn't want to get out of your sleeping bag."
"But you'd have to get out to have a piss."
"Not good."

It was soon time to cycle home.

"It's going to be bad cycling back down to 269," I said.
"Yeah," replied Andy, and we mounted our Konas for the return trip.

Once Andy and I had said goodbye halfway along the 269, I took my mind off the cold by making up rhymes and quietly singing them to myself. Silly rhymes that meant nothing. I passed a couple of large groups of cyclists heading in the opposite direction and acknowledged them with a polite wave.

It was cold all day long, even later in London's Portobello Road, and I went to bed early, waking at 6am on Sunday morning to similar-looking weather. I put on seven layers of clothing before heading downstairs to make tea and buttered toast (alright, margarine). The mobile vibrated on the console table in the hall. A message from Andy. "Abort. Not feeling too good." Fine by me, I thought, as I typed back 'Ok' and returned to the halogen glow of the computer in my conservatory. There was no point going back to bed.

Images by Andy Smith.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Doha's in the news a lot at the moment...

Not only is Doha now famous for it's visit by NoVisibleLycra's co-founder, yours truly, but other luminaries are there too. Robert de Niro is one of them. He's in the Qatari capital with the Tribeca Film Festival, which he co-founded back in the early noughties. For more, click here.

De Niro was staying at Doha's Grand Hyatt, where I spent most of last week.

In fact, the Grand Hyatt is hosting this year's climate change conference. Click here for more details.

Gusty in places...

Trying to take original photography at the Tatsfield Bus Stop is getting harder
Those winds remained, but there was no rain, although it had clearly rained a lot during the night. I headed off around 7am and en route to the green nearly got knocked off the bike, the wind was that strong. I'm just glad I wasn't landing in the UK on an Emirates flight from Dubai as I'm sure it would have been bumpy.

At the green there was no sign of Andy, which was rare, but another bloke turned up on his Gary Fisher mountain bike and we chewed the fat as we both waited for our cycling pals to arrive. Andy arrived first, but prior to his arrival the other bloke and I chatted about cycling and various routes and I told him that we'd been doing this every weekend for the past six years and so on.

A field adjacent to the Tatsfield Bus Stop
Last night, or rather yesterday evening, Warlingham Green switched on it's Christmas lights and I really must get a shot of the tree because it's tiny! Still, unlike Tatsfield Village Green, at least the lights work! Last year, when Andy and I visited Tatsfield Village on Christmas Eve we were amazed to find a tree with the lights not working.

Andy turned up and we headed for the Tatsfield Bus Stop. It was a normal kind of ride. We had our tea and cereal bags, chewed the fat about this and that and headed home again.

The weather was good, if a little windy. The skies were clear blue, it wasn't too cold and a lot of the trees were bare – typical NVL weather, which we like.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Heavy winds...

Winds like those howling outside at the moment were expected on Friday, which was worrying for yours truly as I was flying into Gatwick from Qatar. Fortunately, it was a clear evening. As always, however, the weathermen often get it a day or two out and now, as I type this at 0618hrs, the wind chime is playing a vigorous tune and the trees are swaying to and fro. But is it raining? At the moment it's too dark to say, but having not riden out yesterday – through tiredness, not jet lag – there's a need to go out today, especially when you consider that all week I've been sitting down, either on a plane or in a conference hall.

This, if you like, is brief note. Hopefully, I'll be reporting back later having gone out, although I'm guessing today will be a short one to somewhere covered like the Tatsfield Bus Stop.

More images of Qatar

About to take off for Dubai from Doha with Emirates.
The Doha to Dubai flight was scheduled to leave around 0945hrs and it did. The flight was pleasant and took about an hour. Much, much better than the heavy turbulence experienced on the Dubai to Doha flight early on Monday morning.

Qatar allows drinking in hotels.
While my Best Western in Old Salata Street was dry and had no bar, the Grand Hyatt did. Here's my glass of wine to prove it.
Qatari sunrise on Friday 23 Nov 2012

Despite no early morning call, the sun woke me up in time to catch my flight from Doha to Dubai and then, of course, my connecting flight to London.

Images from Qatar

View from my 10th floor at Qatar's Best Western hotel
I spent most of my week in a conference
If I'm honest (which I am) I didn't have much time while in Qatar to do anything but work. Everyday, around 8am, I was out of my hotel, the Best Western on Old Salata Street, and in the hotel limo being ferried the 25-minute journey to the Grand Hyatt where, incidentally, Robert de Niro was staying, apparently.

My hotel was very pleasant, mainly because it was quiet and out of the way, although only ten minutes or so from the airport, which was handy on Friday as it meant that I didn't have to get up at an ungodly hour. Well, that depends on your point of view. I asked for an early morning call as my mobile phone had run out of power and I'd left my charger at home. The early morning call, however, did not materialise and it was fortunate that the early morning sun, rising over the buildings, sent a hot, white beam into my room as the curtains were drawn slightly apart.

I jumped out of bed, finished packing up my stuff and then headed downstairs to pay my bill and get a taxi to Doha International airport. I shared my taxi with an offshore engineer from Streatham (yes, it's a small world) and he too had been staying at the Best Western.

I was on the 10th floor, right at the top, in room 1001. There was a small swimming pool on the 11th floor but I had no time and no trunks, which was mildly annoying, although I knew that I wouldn't have the time or inclination. The pool was small and indoors and went I reached my room I would blog for a bit, do the news for the newsletter (and the website) and then hit the sack. I never once switched on my flatscreen television, the hotel was dry (meaning there was no bar, the nearest being at the Movenpick down the road, but a drink's not that important. Not anymore).

Outdoor pool at the Grand Hyatt.
I slept like a log although the air-con breathed cold air on my face, prompting me to turn down the fan and increase the temperature. Qatar is one of those places where it's colder inside than it is outside, although at this time of year, it's a perfect 29 to 31 deg C outside. The sun is hot, though. And people are warned not to go out walking in the morning. I had plans to stroll along the Corniche (a long promenade offering views of the sea and the huge and impressive skyscrapers across the water). I never had time.

Each morning after washing and showering I would head for the Mezzanine floor for breakfast, consisting of fresh fruit and Rice Krispies plus a cup of tea and then it was off to the Grand Hyatt to work, for the whole day. In the evening there was always something going on. Day one it was a reception (where only fruit juices were served) and on day two there was Qatari Night, an evening of Arab culture and food, which was very good fun. On Thursday night there was an Arab Culture evening: music and a tour of an amazing museum. I can't remember the details because I rarely listen to tour guides (never have, never will but why, I don't know). The museum contained the cars and various items of Arab memorabilia of a wealthy Qatari.

Matchless motorcycle in the museum

The engineer from Streatham took me by surprise. I jumped into the front seat of the cab and there he was in the back. He was a pleasant man, educated in Swansea but hailing originally from Yorkshire. His wife was a gynaecologist and he was considering applying for a job in Perth, Australia. Once we reached the airport we parted without even a goodbye, but it wasn't out of rudeness. I checked in and wandered off in search of my colleague, who I didn't see until I reached gate B33. I saw him again on the flight from Dubai to London, but only fleetingly and he didn't see me.

The Doha to Dubai flight was smooth and pleasant. The Dubai to London flight was alright, but I was getting tired of flying and sat there basically counting down the hours until we arrived at Gatwick.

Being only three hours ahead of the UK there was little, if any, jetlag, but the rain prevented a ride and I aborted anyway as I needed the lie-in.

The post contains some images taken by me using the Lumix. I couldn't post them earlier as I didn't have the magical USB lead that enables me to upload images.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

At Doha Airport...

Friday 23rd November: It's a quarter to nine in the morning and my flight is due to board in about fifteen minutes. I'm sitting in an observation lounge looking out at the runway (pics to follow) and watching the Qatar Airways planes take off.

I'm off to Dubai and then there's a bit of a wait for the flight to London. Can't wait to get home.

View from an observation lounge
Got up early, packed things up and left the Doha Best Western behind. Not a bad hotel. Met an offshore engineer in the taxi (he was sitting there when I jumped into the front seat). The engineer was from Streatham (what a small world) but he hails from Yorkshire and studied engineering in Swansea. He's married to a gynaecologist and has applied for a job in Perth, Australia. He's been in Qatar for about a fortnight.

We chatted about Qatar hosting the World Cup in 2022 and how the city needed much more infrastructure. There are no trams, no trains, the place is, in effect, a building site and you have to travel everywhere by taxi, which is fine, but the driving here is crazy – they can afford flash cars and they drive them very fast and very dangerously.

Anyway, the World Cup. How are they going to manage it? The 'dry' nature of the country might prove problematical (for England fans) and while there's a lot of hotels here, gettting from them to the footy stadium will be a problem unless they've got plans for a bus network and possibly trains too.

Who knows? I better go as I've got a plane to catch. Might blog again in Dubai.

Qatar – it's dry, meaning no alcohol, but believe me, that's good!

You know, sometimes the Brits say things about the Middle East along the lines of it being the sort of place where, if you get caught drinking they cut off your hands or something similarly ridiculous. They don't, of course, not in Qatar at any rate, or Dubai, but let's deal with this whole 'dry' thing. To be totally honest, it's alright. I feel a million times better and I haven't gotten into that whole 'let's meet for a beer' thing that happens so often in places where alcohol is available. By 'places where alcohol is available' I mean most of the rest of the world.

Doha airport. I'll be there in the morning, although we're flying Emirates.
No, it's really nice drinking fruit juices and the occasional Sprite or Coke, there's also no danger of encountering unreasonable people who have been drinking. It's great! And listen, if you want a drink, you can get one in most of  the hotels (except mine) where it's a little more civilised than a high street pub where, invariably, there's always one 'nutter'.

Also, it's nice NOT to see crushed beer cans in the gutter or mildly 'down and out' people coming at you with a can of Tennants in the their hand. There's no rowdiness, just a nice and pleasant calmness, which I really enjoy.

I was told yesterday that in Qatar you need to have a license to buy alcohol and that is dependent on how much money you earn. Alright, I'm sure there are loads of arguments to be thrashed out about that, but taken at face value, the whole 'no booze' thing works because it means that all the rubbish you have to put up with that is connected to drinking, simply isn't there.

And let's not get it wrong, Qatar doesn't appear in anyway threatening. On the contrary. Because there are no unruly drunken people walking around the streets, there appears, on the surface at any rate, to be little in the way of crime. There's not much of a police presence here either. I haven't seen a police car yet and I've been here all week.

In fact, as I have to fly back tomorrow I must say that I've enjoyed my time here in Qatar and would recommend it as a holiday venue.

As for the World Cup in 2022, Qatar is taking on a game fuelled by alcohol so it'll be interesting to see how they cope with it.

Qatar is a good country with a prosperous future ahead of it, hopefully. The weather's good, the people are friendly, the food's fine and there's plenty to see and do.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

In Qatar...

Old against new. Dhows moored in the harbour as modern skyscrapers look on.
I eventually flew out of Dubai, heading for Doha, at 0215hrs this morning. The flight was pretty hairy. I sat right at the back of the plane in a window seat, but there was little to see as it was night time.

What worried me was the pilot who said something about turbulence over Doha and how it might be a little bumpy. That was an understatement. The flight time was 45 minutes and we'd be flying at only 22,000 feet, but after 15 or 20 minutes...Wump! We hit a storm of some kind and the plane jolted and dipped and dived for what seemed like an eternity. As you can imagine I was not best pleased, but elated when we eventually landed.

I jumped into bed around 4am and set my alarm for 8am, although in reality it was 1am by my UK clock. Qatar is just three hours behind the UK, which is good from a jet lag perspective. As it was, I awoke around 0730hrs with the sun streaming into the room and, surprisingly, I wasn't feeling at all jaded. I got up, showered and shaved and had a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit, tea and a bowl of Rice Krispies. Then it was off to the Grand Hyatt, home of the conference I'm attending.

Qatar is a strange place and I can't work out whether or not I like it. It's a lovely place, there's a nice smell in the air, a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg and there are palm trees – always pleasant to see. Effectively, though, we're in the desert and that's what strange about this place. Qatar has the skyscrapers and it's building more, but there's something almost unreal about them, as if they're not really there; we are, after all in the East. We're in Arabia and this is difficult to forget as the men wear traditional costume: long, one-piece shirts down their ankles, head dress and sandals and they look cool. Not 'cool' but cool in the heat.
Qatar. Not far from anywhere, including Iran.
My taxi driver tells me there's no crime here, none at all, and I put this down to the fact that Qatar is a 'dry' country, meaning no boozing. I say 'no boozing', you can drink in the Five Star Hotels, but the general rule is that there's no drink, which is odd, but it means there's no buzzin' downtown with bars. There is the Souk (or marketplace) but this is populated with cafes selling tea and soft drinks and even the reception, pre-conference, at the Grand Hyatt was alcohol-free. I drank mango juice and pineapple juice and orange juice but didn't have to worry about mixing my drinks. And while I can honestly say that I don't miss the alcohol, the lack of it does put a dampener on Qatar, but not for the reasons you might think. It's not so much about drinking, it's about what makes up a downtown, what makes a city attractive. One thing is the bars and that's what is missing here; because the bars don't exist, there's no urge to go out and explore at night. Alright, there's the Al Corniche, which is basically a kind of promenade, a boardwalk, but somehow the buzz of bar culture is noticeable by it's absence.

Personally, I like the fact that the emphasis isn't on boozing. It's great not to see booze ads and it's even better not to see unruly people wandering around with cans of 1664 in their hands, swearing and fooling around – as they do in London. Also, it means you avoid a furry tongue in the morning, which is also good.

Crime? There isn't any according to my cabbie, who hails from India. And I reckon that's because there's not a booze culture here – the UK could learn some lessons here.

It's November, of course, but it's hot during the day, certainly in the morning, but even at night it's not cold and people wear only jeans and tee-shirts.

The women here are very glamorous and attractive. Some where the burka, others wear more western clothing, but the overall picture here is good, although there is one other major thing missing: infrastructure. Where are the trams and the trains? They're non-existent. The only way to get around here is by cab or car so I take the cab and the driving is, well, I won't say erratic, let's just say it's fast and furious. At times on my journey back here to the hotel I felt as if I was taking my life into my own hands, especially approaching and exiting roundabouts.

Speaking to somebody earlier, they said that it was a shame that Qatar was going the way of Dubai, with it's tall skyscrapers and so on, and the development continues apace. I'm not sure if you watch Channel Four, but you know those creative bits of film they throw in between programmes where, after a while, you spot the figure four disguised as buildings or whatever the theme might be? Well, there's one featuring buildings and that's what Qatar is all about; it has that quality about it.

What is slightly disappointing is that, while looking from a distance the buildings look pretty slick. Closer inspection reveals that they're not that hot – the tinted windows are shabbier on closer inspection – and there's an impression that Qatar is doing it's level best to be a 'big city' and will, doubtless prevail, but one is left wondering how real it all is. It's a bit like one of those western towns they create at Paramount Pictures that are propped up with wooden stilts, but are basically just facades.

Also, the hotel room is colder than it is on the streets, which can irritate. It's as if there's somebody blowing cool air on to your face at night as you try to sleep. And talking of sleep, it's 1134hrs here and time for me to go to bed.

There are photographs taken by yours truly, but I won't be able to post them until I get home.

Monday, 19 November 2012

In Dubai...

Hello from a very tired NoVisibleLycra blogger. Up this morning at 0530hrs, out of the house by 7am, on the 0722 from Sanderstead and then on to Gatwick and now, after six plus hours on the plane (Emirates) I'm here in Dubai and I'm a little cheesed off. Why? Because there was so little time to catch my connecting flight to Doha that I missed it and now, as I write this, it's 11.33pm – four hours ahead of the UK – and I've got to wait until 0215hrs to catch the next flight.

So, I'm sitting in a virtually empty restaurant within the airport eating a mushroom risotto and drinking a glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. It sounds nice, but I'd rather be in Doha, relaxing in my hotel room. Still, can't have everything.

The trouble is, I'm dog tired. All weekend has been characterised by lack of sleep, especially on Saturday night, when I stayed in the house alone and seemed to wake up at every strange knock I heard. This restaurant, by the way, is called The Hub. It's dark and woody and a bit pricey (£8.60 for a glass of wine).

I can't put my finger on it, but Dubai is a bit, I don't know, a bit flash.

I could really wish this further, sitting here like this, waiting for an early morning flight. Mainly because I had that whole 'international' thing you get once you've crossed over from civvy street to the land beyond passport control. You know what I mean, where the car to aspire to is a Ferrari, where culture always leads to The Blue Man Group and where Toblerone rules the world of chocolate.

I can't stand airport shops. Who buys stuff from them? Soft toys, tee-shirts (here with 'Dubai' written on them, although I'm guessing that, I haven't seen any yet) and expensive watches, perfume and spirits. Horrible. Anyway, I've got time to kill but I'm running out of power so I'll have to sign off.

My next post is liable to be a shot of my hotel bed, if I get there.

The flight over was fine, by the way, little in the way of turbulence, a nice lunch (roast chicken with a glass of red wine) and, well, it was good.

I'll probably say nicer things about Dubai airport when I've had some kip. Here's hoping!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Andy goes it Botley Hill

Andy's Kona Blast at Botley Hill this morning.
I had a broken night, waking virtually on the hour, so at around 0500hrs I texted Andy to abort. I must have fell asleep as I awoke at 0800hrs and the sun was shining through the curtains: it was a nice day, even if there was a frost on the grass. I sent Jon a simple text saying, 'cycle?' but he didn't respond and sent one to Andy to see if he went out – he did.

Jon never responded and because I had to check-in online for a flight to Qatar, I ended up not going out, although even now, at 1214hrs, I feel the need to get out there. We'll see.

Andy did go out and here's an image to prove it.

Tatsfield Village – and we get a soaking

The weathermen were warning of rain today, a bit like last week. Tomorrow will be clear, sunny...and cold, again like last week.

When I looked out around 6am there was no sign of any rain, although a dampness presented itself, thanks to the misty air. When I left the house at just gone 7am it was fine. There was a very mild rain, but nothing to prompt a return home. In fact, it was typical NoVisibleLycra weather: grey and overcast, mist here and there and a mild bite to the air, just as I like it.

Tatsfield Village Green in sunnier times.
Warlingham Green was looking wet when I arrived, but then, so did everything else – except Andy who, like me, was still relatively dry considering the mild drizzle. I bought some milk from the shop as we'd run out at home and then we headed off for Tatsfield Village. Neither of us fancied travelling too far and now that I'm home and dry, I'm glad we didn't.

I think the last time we visited Tatsfield Village was Christmas Eve 2011 – see the post entitled Let's Talk About Dogs in the side panel to the right of the page.

Today, there were a few dogs around. One was tethered to a post and kept barking at us. Another was wearing a coat and then we saw a woman with two dogs. Tatsfield must have a fair amount of dog owners.

It's mid-November so we didn't expect to see the Tatsfield Village Green Christmas Tree, although I'm assuming it will appear soon and perhaps this time there might be some decent lights on it. Last year it looked a bit miserable so we didn't take any photographs.

On the way home, Andy branched off and took the track through Woldingham and towards Wapses Roundabout. I carried on along the B269 and, as I circumnavigated Warlingham Green, it began to rain.

I got home, wet but not too cold, showered and had some Weetabix. I would have made porridge, but all of the saucepans had been used and I didn't fancy washing up somebody else's dried porridge or dried tomato soup from the day before, so I made do with a couple of cold Weetabix and a cup of tea, plus a few slices of bread and marmalade.

We're meeting at the normal time tomorrow on the Green for a run to somewhere. The weather will be cold but dry and sunny – and no rain, so hopefully all will be well.

In the news:-

• Dave Lee Travis, DLT, aka 'the hairy cornflake' was questioned by police last week as part of investigations surrounding the whole Jimmy Savile affair. He's denying any wrongdoing, quite vehemently and I don't think he has any case to answer.
• Israel's throwing it's weight around in Gaza and looks as if it's planning a ground offensive.
• Voting for Police Commissioners has been and gone and nobody knew much about it, hence a very low turn-out at the polling booths. Having police commissioners means that everything will be like a scene from Batman. "Okay, Commissioner Gordon...". It also means that the Government can distance itself from police cuts and refer people to their police commissioner. Clever! But we're not stupid.
• The BBC's Children in Need Appeal raised just under £27 million, although I found it all a bit hypocritical after the Savile scandal.
• A meningitis jab has been given the go-ahead in the UK.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday 2012: to Westerham

Churchill on Remembrance Sunday 2012. Wearing a hat for some reason
Remembrance Sunday to be precise as many signs pointed out en route. Saturday had been a complete wash-out but, as predicted by the weathermen, Sunday was lovely. Not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining, but it wasn't warm. In fact, when out of the sun it was cold, but bearable cold.
We opted for flapjacks rather than the Full English

We met at the Green at 0730hrs and noted that somebody – the council – had been busy tending the flowerbeds and mowing the lawns.

There were a few riders out and some runners and, as we headed out onto the B269, beyond the bus stop that signifies the end of the climb from Knight's Garden Centre, we saw low mists in the valley.

We'd decided to aim for Westerham, having not been there for a while and, if we're honest, we were getting a little fed up with the Tatsfield Bus Stop, which has played host for the last few weeks. The fact that we hadn't gone riding at all last week also meant that a longer ride was needed to balance the books.

When we got there, Churchill was wearing a hat and there was a lot of dew on the benches, so we stood up to drink our tea. I'd suggested the Tudor Tea Rooms, which was open for breakfast (now, that's pretty good considering it was Sunday) and there was a brief flirtation with a Full English, but having made (and carried) the flask of hot water all the way from Sanderstead, we decided to drink our own tea. And besides, Andy had the cereal bars too and my initial thought was powered by the closeness of a cashpoint machine – until I realised that I didn't have my cards on me.

In the end Andy stumped up for two flapjacks (giving me an excuse to 'use the facilities') and we munched them in the sun, watching a rather nice Harley Davidson park up. Our 'bike shop' was still up for rent, ever since Barclays vacated the premises some months ago (you'll find reference to this in past posts).
Andy just prior to heading home

Suitably refreshed, we packed up our stuff and headed for home, up Westerham Hill, past the Tatsfield Bus Stop and down the B269. Andy branched off on the track halfway along and I carried on towards the green, then the Limpsfield Road and home. I got back around 1015hrs.

Later in the day I took the family to Kingston for a wander around town. We bought some Cath Kidson mugs and came home. Very busy in Kingston and the car parks cost a fortune, but it's a nice enough place. We went down to the river, bought some wine for evening meal and then watched the Strictly Come Dancing results show.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Way to go, Obama!

How nice when commonsense prevails! Obama wins a second term! How nice to wake up and hear the   phrase, "'s been a disappointing night for the Republicans." Thank God we don't have Mitt in the White House. How the hell could he hope of winning the prize on the ticket of repealing Obama's healthcare plans? Imagine a Tory over here going into a General Election on the ticket of closing down the NHS?

But it's more than that; Mitt Romney would have ushered back that George 'Dubya' Bush thing: throwing his weight around in the Middle East, he's already had a go at the Palestinians. This world just don't need that square-jawed, National Rifle Association gung-ho! thing any more, nobody wants it.

Now, how about a cool leader over here in the UK? If it's not Clegg and it's DEFINITELY not Cameron, then who is it? Is it the mild-mannered janitor? Nope. Is it Grant Shapps? No way!!!! Just because he's related to Mick Jones, former lead guitarist of The Clash, doesn't mean he's cool. Far from it! I'm amazed that Mick hasn't run off and hidden in the woods. Being linked to Shapps takes away any 'cool' he might have possessed. What about Michael Gove? Nope! They're all horrible! And let's be fair here, it's not Ed Miliband either...but it could be his brother David.

Anyway, enough politics. It's good news all round for the Americans.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Heavy rain means no ride...

Well, yesterday was a bit of a strange one. It was raining over Caterham way but didn't really happen over here. Having said that, when it rains in Caterham, it normally hits here half an hour later, so the ride was aborted and guess what? It turned out to be a really pleasant, albeit cold, day.

So, Andy and I vowed to go today and head out to Chevening early. But when I woke up at just gone five in the morning, ready to spring out of bed at five thirty, I heard rain. Heavy rain. And then it stopped and when I peered out around six, all was dry. I was keeping in radio contact with Andy via text and the general feeling was to see how it developed. The rain stopped. Then it started again and I've just sent a 'definitely abort' text, meaning the ride is off. It's raining now. Heavily. Its thirteen past seven and there's no chance of a ride now.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Photograph of the Week

Is a caption necessary?
This shot was taken on last week's ride along the Sanderstead end of the Limpsfield Road.

Rain stops ride...

Well, I say rain, looking out now it's grey and overcast and looks a bit threatening, but I can't see any rain. Earlier this morning, it was too dark to see anything, although when I checked one of the streetlights out front, I couldn't see even a speck of rain. Hold on while I check the birdbath (it's nearly 7am and fairly light out there), I think we've missed a trick, it looks quite pleasant. The skies were grey but the clouds are moving fast in a westerly direction, there's a mild breeze, but no, not a sign of rain. It was wet out there, though, and then, of course, there's always that Caterham/Sanderstead thing where it rains in Caterham and then it starts over here too, so I might be acting a little 'previous', if you get my drift.

I'm dressed and ready to go as I write this, having agreed to an 'abort' about half an hour ago, so I guess I could just nip out there and take a run round the block on the bike, but no, it's cosy here and there's always the chance that it will rain. And besides, there are things to do this morning. We've agreed to head out to Westerham tomorrow, weather permitting, so let's see what develops.

Time for a quick update on the news here in the UK.

Come on, Obama, we don't want some square
jawed Republican in the White House.
In the ongoing investigations into child abuse surrounding the late Jimmy Savile, comedian Freddy Starr has been hauled in by the police. He protests his innocence, but if he's found guilty, he'll bring a whole new meaning to the headline, 'Freddy Starr ate my hamster'.
• There's a lot of child abuse around at the moment. Now there's a case in North Wales. Apparently two people have contacted Newsnight (the programme at the centre of the Jimmy Savile scandal with the BBC) and said that a Thatcher-era Tory politician is involved in something seedy. I wonder who that is? Mind you, Wales is a bit of a dodgy place. Lots of things have been happening there of late.
After Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast of the USA, crashing into New York City, the death toll mounts and they've had to cancel the New York Marathon.
• We're getting to the moment when America votes on a new president: Obama or Romney. Surely we can't have a President Mitt? Here's hoping Obama wins a second term.
Over here in the UK, the electrical goods retailer Comet has called in the administrators.

And, as I gaze out the window again, no sign of rain. Yes, it's one of those mornings when I feel a bit disappointed that I haven't got out there and taken a ride. I still could, but I just know that I won't. Here's hoping tomorrow will be rain-free.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Tatsfield Bus Stop...

Andy at the top of White Lane last Sunday. Note the Tatsfield Bus Stop
in the background.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Sunday - it's got to be the Tatsfield Bus Stop!

A general fatigue appears to have fallen on the NoVisibleLycra team, although I hate to use the word 'team' as it implies we might be Lycra Monkeys – we're not.

Yours truly in the pre-blog days, standing outside the Co-op.
Anyway, we met at the green early (7am instead of 7.30am, it's becoming a habit) and while we had discussed the possibility of going to Westerham, I don't think either of us wanted to go so far. It was cold, but not as cold as on Saturday, but still, the very idea of going 'all that way' put us both off. We ended up at the Tatsfield Bus Stop having debated a trip to the village and Godstone (although the hill coming out of Godstone was enough to put us both off).

Andy said he didn't know where time was going and that he felt he had less and less of it. Well, yes and no. In the old days we used to leave early and meet early, but we never indulged in tea and cereal bars. Our rides were very utilitarian; it was a case of reaching the destination, standing up outside the Co-op in Westerham (we rode to Westerham twice over the weekend, clocking up a cool 44 miles) and then cycling back home again.

In many ways you could say that these days we tend to make a mountain out of a molehill as far as cycling is concerned. The very fact that we have this blog is testament to that and the blog's been going for over three years. We talk about a book and it might happen, but right now I've had enough of books, what with my novel (completed a few months ago) and my dad's family history (recently finished). But it will happen.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop
Having said that we make a mountain out of a cycling molehill, I don't think either of us would have it any other way. The blog, I think, is really good as it documents our lives, what's been going on in the world and, of course, the weather. In fact, as I've said before, cycling at the weekend has become part of my life and I don't think I could live without it, especially at this time of year when the leaves hit the ground, the sky darkens and the temperature drops. October – and it's the last day of October today – is, for me, the defining month for our cycling.

We're talking about leaving even earlier, ie meeting at the green at 6.30am instead of 7am. Now that's a tall order, but it's scheduled in for this coming Saturday. We'll see how it goes. Personally, I don't think we've lost time in any way. We've probably just got too much to do at the weekends and need to be back for it. Longer runs to Chevening Church or Merstham/Redhill have been off the cards for both of us of late and for good reason as they normally involve returning home mid-morning, losing half the day.

This discussion comes up occasionally and I think the other thing about it is this: we enjoy cycling, yes, but the other main reason for going is the exercise, so we shouldn't be ashamed if we visit the Tatsfield Bus Stop once too often. After all, it's still a good 15-miler and if we go twice it's 30 miles.