Sunday, 22 April 2012

Westerham again – and a great weekend's cycling

The houses on Westerham Green. Andy took this and
yesterday's shot, by the way.
It really was a great weekend for cycling and the most amazing part of it was not getting a soaking. Both mornings, Saturday and Sunday, were wonderful: plenty of sunshine and blue skies. But oddly, both days were a bit schizoid. One minute sunny, the next rain. It's been like it all week to be fair, but on both days Andy and I avoided a soaking and now, as I write this at 2011hrs on Sunday evening, it's pouring down outside.

We headed out to Westerham again, meaning that this weekend we've cycled around 44 miles. We took the off-road track today and came into Westerham from the other side. Nobody was cutting the grass today so we sat on the green, behind the statue of Winston Churchill, watching countless Jaguar cars drive past on some kind of rally. There were E-types, XJSs, every single model under the sun, but Andy and I would say no to a Jag. We both prefer a Land Rover Defender. An odd choice, perhaps, but there you go.

Nothing more to say today and besides, I've got a bottle of Cooper's Sparkling Ale in the fridge so, to quote a Hawkwind lyric from the mid-70s, "I've got the serum and I'm going to take it!"

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Rapeseed oil fields, large puddles and a trip to Westerham

It's rapeseed oil field time in the UK. A sign that summer is getting closer.
We managed to get down to Westerham yesterday (Saturday 21st April) and it was good. It had been raining in the night as there were huge lakes abutting the road side, which can be dangerous as we tend to avoid them by riding in the middle of the road, but what a great day: blue skies, sunshine and a vapour coming off the shrubs on the bank.

In Westerham the peace was spoilt by council grasscutters, one sitting on a mower, the other using an industrial-sized strimmer. Andy suggested we found somewhere else to sit, which I suggested was letting them win, but we moved as we couldn't hear one another talk. We moved to some benches opposite a commemorative fountain dedicated to Queen Victoria's Jubilee (not sure which one) but it seemed appropriate considering it was Queen Elizabeth ll's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year.

On the ride home we took this shot, just off Beddlestead Lane, and then continued on our way. I spent the rest of the day working (and I'll do the same today, Sunday 22nd April).

Now it's time to meet Andy again and hit the road.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

My dad...on the television - watch it if you can!

Bit of interesting news: was watching the 70s documentary on the BBC and saw my dad! He used to work inside No.10 Downing Street when I was about 12 or 13 and, as kids, we often saw glimpses of him on television. If you too would like to see my dad when he was younger than I am now, go to the bbc iplayer, click the 70s documentary (which at the moment is there when you open up the page) and then scroll through to around 46mins 30 seconds. You'll see former British Prime Minister Ted Heath. As the timer reaches 46.31 you'll see a man appear to the right of the screen, you get a profile shot then he disappears behind Ted and exits to the left of the screen. Blink and you'll miss it.

A grave photograph...

There's more to churchyards than gravestones. Hold on,
isn't that the edge of grave, with some daffs and my tea cup?
Visiting the churchyard as often as Andy and I do can get a bit boring when it comes to photography, so Andy resorted to my teacup and a few daffodils. This shot was taken on Saturday 14 April 2012.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A new fridge, two rides and a trip to Euphorbia...

It's a bit like this one...
What an exciting life! We've got a new fridge! Alright, it's not a racing set, but it's still great having a new fridge, a Bosch, just like our old one, but better, except that it's in the middle of the kitchen floor. Why? Because of the ridiculous configuration of our kitchen: the plug for the fridge is under the countering near the sink but it's impossible to get the plug round the back of the counters and into the socket. I've tried everything: inserting a length of hose through one of cupboards with the aim of taping the fridge plug (which is connected to the fridge) on to the hose and then pulling the hose back, along with the plug, so I can simply plug it in. But no, not a chance. The plug is too big and there's a big risk of it getting stuck behind the counters. Solution? We've got to call an electrician and ask him to fit a new socket in a more convenient place. The only other solution? Dismantle the counter – which is not an option – or start drilling holes, which is not an option either. So the fridge is in the middle of the kitchen floor, blocking entry or exit from the external kitchen door, but at least we've got a fridge. All week we've been without one, which is really annoying when you have a few beers to drink and can't chill them down.

On the cycling front, it's been short but sweet. At least we managed both Saturday and Sunday with trips to the Tatsfield Churchyard and then the Tatsfield Bus Stop. I had to get back early on Saturday to drive down to Perch Hill and Sarah Raven's garden. Had a slice of ginger cake, very tasty, and discovered something called a Euphorbia. It's a plant, but it sounds like a place, like suburbia. 'We're going to spend a few days in Euphorbia.' Sounds a bit aciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid! A bit Happy Mondays if you know what I mean. Anyway, the best Euphorbia is John Tomlinson and I want one for our garden. So, in other words, I was inspired. Going to Perch Hill was a great idea, although it was just a little too far: a long way down the A22.

Now it's late and everyone else is in bed. I've just picked Max up from Crystal Palace and I'm about to hit the sack myself. Sat and watched Marley & Me and now I want a dog. Better go to bed, got work tomorrow.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Rained off...

Monday 9 April: I was up at 6am but couldn't see any rain. It wasn't until I looked out of the kitchen window and saw raindrops landing in the birdbath that I realised. When I texted Andy he said it was blue skies over Caterham, but then, apparently, it started up over there too. So, here I sit, at the desk in the conservatory, the rain still falling (I can hear it now) and there's to be no cycling today. Still, there's always next week.

It's a woman's movie
1434hrs: It's still raining. Ben Hur and The Way We Were are on the TV, so is Antz and the movie version of Phantom of the Opera. I'm drinking a cup of tea. It's quite bright out there, but it's also very wet. We're considering a drive. It's always like this over Easter. I remember when I was a kid, it was just the same, except in those days I didn't own a car. I'd have been stuck 'indoors', watching a movie with mum and dad and if I said I was bored, which I did, my dad would say, "Go and read a book." To which I'd reply, "I don't want to read a book." These days, of course, I read a lot. I've just finished Willy Vlautin's The Motel Life, which I bought a few days back in Foyles. Northline, also by Vlautin, was good too. I've just started reading Inverted World by Christopher Priest.

Actually, when it rained back home, sometimes Jon and I would play with our forts and toy soldiers and escaped into the world of the rebels, like Kayak, and the establishment as embodied by Harlow, Stonehall and 'Chiefy'. Why the head of the rebel soldiers was called Kayak, I'll never know, but he was; and similarly, why I named a US Cavalry soldier Harlow and a mounted Queen's guardsman Stonehall, I'll never understand. Chiefy? Well at least he was a Red Indian – he was Jon's.

My fort, Black Cross Fort, still exists. It's at mum's. Some of the soldiers still exist too, either abandoned in the back garden or still in the fort. I think Jon's still got his fort too. We had many games with those toy soldiers and there were some memorable characters too, like the Jones brothers, who used to tie their ankles to the chain of the fort's drawbridge and swing down and head-butt the enemy. Then there was J and T Shot, two brothers, both lost at sea. They went on holiday to the South Coast and were washed out to sea, never to be seen again. And who can forget "Jeepy", so-named because he was permanently in the sitting position and confined to a Jeep. He died at the notorious Battle of Kiln Castle, which marked the ends of our childhoods. After that battle, on November 4th 1974, Jon and I ceased playing. I think I was 16, which was probably a little old to be playing with toy soldiers, but what the heck, we loved it. After Kiln Castle, the birthday and Christmas presents got  little grown-up: clothes. God, I used to hate that word.

"What did you get for Christmas?"

I never envied anybody who answered 'clothes' to that question, but eventually I too uttered the word. Clothes. Horrible. Perhaps that's why I'm not in the slightest bit 'fashionable'. I still regard 'clothes' as something the grown-ups buy. And there, of course, is the nub of the problem: at 54 years old I'm still a big kid. But hey, it's alright. Jon and I both admitted recently that we still had it in us to go upstairs at mum's and play with the fort. One day, of course, I'll have to retrieve it from mum's, but hopefully not for a while.

We're going out tonight for a meal to celebrate a birthday. That gives us all something to look forward to because tomorrow I've got to work, but it's a four-day week and so is next week so it's not all bad.

Anyway, until next week, I'll sign off.

Down Gangers with Andy

Andy took this shot down Gangers Hill (or is it Gangers Lane?) on Saturday
April 7th 2012
I was too tired for an early ride, but Andy was up with the lark. Here's his Kona Blast resting against a tree somewhere along Gangers Hill. But did Andy visit the Farm Shop café, that's what I want to know!

Easter holidays so far...

It's Easter Sunday and we're having a buffet, which means that going for a ride is not a good idea. Why? Because I'm the cook. The main item of the meal, the hot item, is to be cooked by yours truly.

Looking out the window I see rain. Fine rain. It might well have been raining this morning around 5am when I realised that I didn't have time for a ride and sent Andy an 'abort' text, but if it was, I didn't notice. I certainly didn't hear it, probably because it was so fine. Silent rain. Looking outside now, there's a good chance that the ride would have been cancelled. My plan is to go tomorrow. That way I would have completed two rides over the long weekend.
You could say this is a boring photograph and you'd be right. It's of a field
near Woodmansterne Green on Saturday 7th April 2012. I like the bonfire.
I had a broken night on Friday, which led to a late ride to Woodmansterne Green to met Jon. Andy had gone out at the usual time, but I'd aborted due to tiredness. Good Friday? We didn't go out and today, Easter Sunday, no ride for yours truly and I'm wondering whether Andy took the opportunity to lie in.

If we go tomorrow, I'm hoping we'll have time to ride to Westerham. We need a longer distance than the Churchyard or Tatsfield Village and I think the bus stop's out of the question, unless we use it to shelter from the rain.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Last weekend – plenty of vintage cars

We saw loads of these on Clarks Lane, near Tatsfield, last Sunday.
A brief mention of last week's ride. Once again, we only went out once, this time on Sunday, and we cycled to the Tatsfield Churchyard. No photographs were taken because, by now, we should all know what a churchyard looks like. For me, while I like the churchyard (unless it's raining) it always brings home the reality of life, which nags at me here and there and, of course, I start to think about dad, whose anniversary comes round soon.

Last Sunday saw a huge rally of vintage Austin 7s. There must have been over 100 of them on the road, mainly 7s, but there were other, larger vintage cars, bigger Austins. Predictably, the drivers, like the cars, were crusty and old and wrapped up warm. Some of the cars were convertibles. Where they were going, I don't know, but judging by the numbers stuck to their windscreens – I saw no.259 – the whole thing must have attracted over 300 cars.

Photograph courtesy of the Beds & Herts Vintage and Classic Car Club. Click here for more.