Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve...more rain and blustery weather

More rain and blustery winds mean no riding today either. So much for my plan to ride out to Warlingham Green all week! Well, who knows, if I'm up to it I'll ride out on New Year's Day 2014, like I did earlier this year (to Botley Hill alone and straight back).

Not much else to report. It's dark outside, there's a load of rubbish on television tonight and, well, that's about the size of it.

This is the last post of 2013 and it's been a good year of riding. We didn't make the Black Horse Ride in the summer, but here's hoping there will be one next year as we're all raring to go. We also didn't get round to riding to the pub, which was a shame, but again, let's try and rectify that next year.

I'm not going to make any new year resolutions, but if I was going to, it would be to keep the bike in a good state of repair, rather than ride (as I tend to all the time) with a dodgy this or a dodgy that – at the moment it's a dodgy front brake and a bottom  bracket in need of fixing). I might even give the old Kona a clean, unlike Andy's Blast, which is always caked in mud.

Had a word with Phil today via texting and I think he'll be back on the bike soon...and he has a load of Christmas cake he might bring along too, so, the sooner the better on that score. Andy's partial to a bit of Christmas cake and so am I, so bring it on.

The other bit of good news in the pipeline is that Simon Cotter from down under might well be in the UK in April. If he does come over, we're planning to meet up and who knows, have a ride, although a beer will suffice. Here's hoping he comes over.

It would be great if Greg Bowles from Iowa made the trip too one of these days, although I'll be in the USA a fair bit, no doubt, so if I can get to Boone, Iowa, I'll drop by and wish him well.

Newsflash!

Just heard on the television news that the UK is 'bracing itself' for more storms and heavy weather, so I'll leave fixing my fence until it's over and done with, although it's the early part of the year that is normally characterised by bad weather conditions. We should be due a consignment of snow soon, any time between now and the end of March, although, as readers of this blog are only too aware, we've had snow in April before – back in 2008, pre-blog days. There are photos on this blog of Andy and I out in the snow in 2008.

A geeky point...

Yes, it's very geeky, but just to let you all know that the busiest year so far for this blog was 2012 with 157 posts. 2013 put in just 118!

A cringeingly poor joke...

Wife to husband: "When I married you, you said you had an ocean-going yacht."
Husband to wife: "Shut up and row."

Next ride...

Saturday 4th January 2014. Be there or be square!

Happy New Year to all those who read and contribute to this blog, especially Andy, Phil, Simon, Greg and my brother Jon (who we ought to see more often).








Monday, 30 December 2013

More heavy winds and rain...

The plan was to ride out today, alone, possibly just to the green and back, but the weather had other plans. As I write this it's raining and the wind is blowing hard outside. I can hear the rain on the conservatory roof above me – definitely not cycling weather.

It's the day before New Year's Eve and I'm in that timeless zone between Christmas and the New Year when nothing much happens and it's hard to tell whether it's the weekend or not. Well, it's not the weekend, it's Monday morning and I know that Andy's off to work today, but only for two days and then it's New Year's Day, arguably the most boring day of the year. In many ways it's like Christmas Day but without the turkey dinner and false bonhomie. There's nothing to do, most people are tired after being fooled into thinking the day before that it was all going to happen as they counted down to midnight only to discover that, on the strike of twelve, everything was exactly the same and nothing at all had changed. New Year's Day is the biggest anti-climax in the world. It's when we all sit around thinking about work, which is normally the following day.

And don't you just hate it when you get into work and find yourself wishing everybody you meet a happy new year. I often find myself wondering when, in the month of January, it's safe not to wish people a happy new year. Probably some time after the middle of the month, around the 15th perhaps. Either way it's horrible.

I've given up making new year resolutions too. Why bother? I never keep to them.

So the wind howls and whistles and the rain patters outside. The bike is in the garage and won't be seeing the road today.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Late start means a short ride to Botley Hill...

For some reason, broken sleep is characterising my life at the moment. I seem to wake up around 2am and then drift off again until around 5am, but then I'm awake and, invariably, I remain that way until it's time to get up.

This morning was slightly different. I was awake around 4am, possibly a bit later, but somehow I managed to nod off and when I woke up it was too late to meet Andy at 8am on Warlingham Green. So I texted him. How about meeting at 8.30am? Fine, so I had time to make tea and sort things out before heading off.

At Botley Hill, Sunday 29 December 2013

Weather-wise it looked cold outside. There was a frost on the road and everywhere so I armed myself with my trusty balaclava, but decided against wearing it until I'd sussed out just how cold it might be out there. In all honesty, it wasn't cold at all so I stuffed the balaclava in my pocket and headed for the green.

The weather was fantastic. A crisp, clear day with a mixture of blue skies underneath wispy cloud. When I reached the green there was no sign of Andy, but then I remembered him saying that if he wasn't there, he'd be at the pond at the top of Slines Oak Road. Sure enough I had a text saying just that, so I saddled up and headed off to meet him.

Our bikes at Botley Hill. Pic by Andy Smith.
It was getting late so we decided to head for Botley Hill rather than ride further to, say, the Tatsfield Bus Stop, the village or the churchyard.

The sun was bright and the skies blue when we dismounted and sipped our tea and then it was simply a  case of heading home again. Everything was so clear. As we rode back along the 269 we could see for miles: the City of London, Canary Wharf, the Shard to the North East and in the North West, and slightly closer, St Helier hospital in Carshalton and Quadrant House in Sutton.

Andy and I parted company half way along the 269 and we're game on to meet again next weekend. I'm off until the new year so I'm thinking of getting a ride in every day until January 2nd. But let's see how it goes – I might just have a lie-in!

Andy's Kona Blast, Slines Oak Pond. Pic by Andy Smith.
On Saturday, by the way, we rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop the fast way. The roads were wet due the heavy rain the day before, but other than that it was a pretty uneventful ride. So uneventful I actually forgot to say anything about it!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Poor weather means no ride today...

Woodmansterne Green, Boxing Day 2013
The heavy winds and rain are back and have been battering the UK throughout the night and into the morning. Right now, it's the same, putting paid to any thoughts of another ride to Woodmansterne Green, where Andy and I celebrated yesterday morning with a piece of my mum's excellent Christmas cake.

It's odd looking out of the window. In the rear garden the trees and bushes sway, but out front things seem stiller until you look a little closer and realise that riding a bike in these conditions is not advisable.

On the way to Woodmansterne Green yesterday we saw plenty of evidence of the storms that initially battered the country on 23rd December – fallen trees lying across the road – and there's always the risk that one might fall onto cyclists.

My only regret is not biting the bullet and heading out on Christmas morning, a first for this blog, but as you can imagine, family commitments got in the way. Christmas Day and Boxing Day were both pleasant and ideal for riding, although it was cold yesterday riding downhill.

At this time of year I tend to lose track of time, but I know that tomorrow is a normal Saturday and that means a ride, albeit at 8am instead of 7.30am at Warlingham Green. The Tatsfield bus stop beckons if weather permits.

Christmas cake wrapped in foil, Boxing Day 2013. Pic by Andy Smith.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day ride to Woodmansterne Green...

It had rained heavily during the night and the residue of wet roads and large puddles greeted us as we rode towards the meeting point at Foxley Lane, Andy coming from Caterham and yours truly from Sanderstead.

Accompanying the wet roads were the corpses of fallen trees, uprooted during the storms of 23 December. There was also a noticeable drop in temperature, not initially, but on our ride back through to Coulsdon from Woodmansterne – almost balaclava weather, I pointed out to Andy.

Being as it was Boxing Day we had some of my mum's excellent Christmas cake to eat instead of the usual cereal bars.

With Boxing Day being a kind of tradition for NoVisibleLycra, we had to take the official shot, which this year proved a problem as you'll see from the images below.

Take one: '...er, where's Matt?"
Take two: '...that's still not right, is it?
Take three: '...perfect (and I still look a little chubby).

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 to all our readers!

Merry Christmas to everybody who has the time and the patience to read No Visible Lycra, a blog that charts our cycling through Surrey and Northern Kent.

Despite some rough weather on the 23rd December (see previous post) today the weather is fine. There's a little bit of scattered rain occasionally, but then it clears up and, as now, is bright sunshine and a mixture of blue skies and cloud. I think the weather will remain as it is now for tomorrow's traditional Boxing Day ride. Andy and I are meeting in Purley at 8am and heading for our usual festive destination of Woodmansterne Green, a place we've not been to for a long time (not even last Boxing Day).

My plan today is the same as every year – visiting two sets of parents, one today and then another on Boxing Day. The problem this year? No car. It looks as if we'll be getting cabs to Sutton on Boxing Day, but our Christmas Day venue is just a five-minute walk (if that!).

As I write this, I have potatoes roasting in the oven and I've already put in a bit of culinary consultancy work regarding the turkey and its various trimmings.

It would have been a very pleasant ride this morning, and a first for No Visible Lycra had it taken place, but there's always so much to do on Christmas morning so it was not to be. Here's hoping the weather's okay for tomorrow morning.

Better go!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Heavy winds and rain batter the UK

In many ways, not having a car has been fortunate. While we had to board a train to reach pals in the New Forest over the weekend, it turned out to be far easier than driving both in terms of time and general ease. A journey of just over an hour and we were there, bar a short walk from the railway station.

The weather over the weekend was not good: rain and blustery winds, which intensified on the day we left into a full-blown storm. Throughout the south west there have been power cuts, heavy seas, cancelled flights, rocky seas and, of course, disgruntled travellers trying to get home for Christmas. Television news reports have been full of crowded airports, station concourses and the obligatory shots of storm-ravaged beaches, aircraft landing sideways and uprooted trees.

None of this bodes well for cycling, although, according to weather reports on the radio, Boxing Day is likely to be fairly good, so a ride might be possible. Cue traditional fruit cake and tea on Woodmansterne Green!

Outside now, the wind has dropped considerably. In fact, as I write this I can hear birds chirping and the trees are no longer waving about frantically in the garden and elsewhere. All is still. Earlier I discovered that two sections of our fence have blown down, which is made doubly irritating by the fact that one section had just been fixed after the last blast of wind.

Today it is Christmas Eve and ahead lies the celebrations of the festive season. Our tree has been up for the past week and we're preparing ourselves for the two crucial visits – to both mums. One lives nearby, the other six miles away – fine if we had a car, but two buses (or two trains) if we don't.

Looking forward to the Boxing Day ride to Woodmansterne Green. Here's hoping the weather holds.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Slow ride there and back...to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

I wish I'd gone out on Saturday to meet Jon at Woodmansterne Green, but car worries steered me away from what would have been a decent ride. The weather was perfect with clearish skies and not a sign of frost on the cars in other people's driveways. Still, you live and learn. I should have just got out there and rode off regardless... but I didn't.

Sunday wasn't as pleasant weatherwise. Throughout the night it had rained heavily and there were strong winds that I could hear as I lay in bed wondering whether an 'abort' text would be needed. Fortunately, it wasn't required as the weather had calmed considerably and while it was damp and grey, there was no rain.

I met Andy at Warlingham Green and we decided to head for the bus stop, the slow way. There was a heavy fog and this, in some way, lessened the ordeal of Beddlestead Lane, which Andy said I've been mentioning in a bad light in past posts. He's right, I have been, but only because it's a long, long road and a long, long upward climb that teeters on being unpleasant but somehow holds it together.

Both of us were amazed at how the road seemed to fly by and how we found ourselves at the end of it in what seemed like a few minutes. I put this down to the heavy fog. At the bus stop visibility was very poor. Cyclists and cars 'disappeared' as soon as they passed us and for this reason we decided it would be safer to go back the slow way too.
Andy's bike on Warlingham Green. Pic by Andy Smith
The ride back meant a climb up Hesiers Hill, a nasty, but short-lived hill, and then a ride around the quiet lanes to the east of the 269. We emerged at Warlingham Sainsbury's and turned right on to the Limpsfield Road, heading for the Green where we would bid each other farewell.

Our next ride together will be on Boxing Day. We're meeting at 8am on the Green and will be riding to Woodmansterne Green for our traditional tea and Christmas cake. I say 'traditional' but we haven't riden out on Boxing Day for a couple of years.

I've got a couple of days off this week and I might well take advantage of the fact and get out on the bike as I won't be riding this weekend, but let's see how things go.
Thick fog at the Tatsfield Bus Stop.
Both bikes are 'fine' although I was remarking to Andy as we rode up Beddlestead Lane that my bike was seemingly always in a state of disrepair: there was always something that needed doing. At the moment, for example, it's the bottom bracket and the front brakes. That old argument about buying a more basic bike with block brakes came up but, as Andy said, "You've got a better bike." Better, he meant, than a bog standard ride from Halford's. He's right.

Andy is considering a new stem for his Blast to raise up the bars and take the pressure off his back, which, he says, is a little strained by having to lean so far forward. He's currently awaiting the part and intends to fix it himself.

Phil has yet to rejoin us, but I'm sure he will one of these days.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Weird shot from this weekend's ride...

Nearing the end of Beddlestead Lane.

Brussels and a dodgy hotel turns out to be really good...

Now I know what the flight simulator on my new iphone is good for: whenever I'm dining alone, which is often, I can get it out and have a fly around. This evening, sitting alone in the restaurant of the Ramada Brussels (there were only four other diners throughout while I sat there) I took a World War ll Spitfire for a spin. Alright, I could have read a book or a magazine, but I was tired and I needed some kind of recreation, so a Duvel and a short-lived flight in an old World War ll fighter plane seemed like a good idea.

The last time I was in Brussels was around 2004 when I was here to find restaurants that matched beer with food (I found two) and now, nine years later here I am again. I took the Eurostar from St Pancras (the 1504 train to Lille (a great place) and Brussels Midi, and the first thing that irritated me was the fact that virtually all the way to the tunnel itself, the train was constantly in tunnels, which made chatting to anybody on the mobile phone a bit of a nightmare. I kept losing the signal, then re-dialling, then losing the signal, then reidailling and...you get the picture.

Room 324, Ramada Brussels – initially not impressed.
So I'm motoring towards Brussels in seat 16 (an aisle seat) but, fortunately, nobody claimed seat 15, so I made the most of it, spreading myself across both seats, using the laptop and doing a bit of work without having to worry anybody else, which suited me fine.

Why was I on the mobile phone? I'm going to need a new car as the oil seal – and possibly the gear box – has gone on the old Kia, which means another hefty bill and more debt. I wouldn't mind, but I'd just had a little windfall (nothing major) but it made a fair old dent in a credit card debt and now, here I am, about to get into even more debt in order to buy another car. First some idiot went up the backside of my Beamer, writing off a perfectly decent car and putting me in debt, and now the old Kia's given up the ghost and I've got to shell out extra cash that I don't have to buy a new car. I can't say I'm happy about it.

Anyway, the Eurostar. Not sure if I like the Eurostar. It's not exactly the Orient Express or the Scotsman and there are so many carriages – crammed with seats – that I never know which way to head for the buffet car. Not that it mattered, as I didn't bother. I'm trying to lose a bit of weight. Instead, I worked throughout the journey, alighting at a decidedly drab-looking Brussels and remembering how, the last time I was here, I thought it looked remarkably like Streatham (around the station area). It's a load of concrete and office blocks and, alright, it's the hub of the European Union too.

I found a cab that drove me to what must be (I thought initially) the worst hotel I've ever stayed in, although it redeemed itself considerably when it came to the restaurant. Why did I consider it the worst? Well, to be honest, now that I'm going through the blogpost I initially penned last night, while tired and irritable, I began to realise that it wasn't such a bad hotel after all and that a lot of the problems I had with the place yesterday were relatively minor. And besides, I was feeling a little miffed about the car situation, so perhaps I was being a little unfair. Having said that, things did happen when I went to check in. For a start, they didn't have my reservation, and it was their fault, not my travel company's. Then they put me in s huge room, room 324 with three single beds in it, two of which were pushed together to make a double.
Pheasant with potatoes and, I think, pears! Oh, and a glass of Duvel.
I don't like huge rooms with loads of space. For some reason I can't get a good night's sleep. I started off the night in the two single beds pulled together to make one double and after a while the air-con system started to annoy me. It was a little on the noisy side and it was too warm and I was too tired to get up and figure out how to turn it off. So, when I awoke at 0137hrs, I decided to move to the single bed on the other side of the room and there I slept until the alarm went off at 0630hrs.

The hotel is very black and while in terms of decor and while this was fine, it reminded me of a packet of Lambert & Butler cigarettes. I had a separate bathroom and toilet, a double aspect view (onto crappy old office buildings, flats and a dual carriageway) and a rubbish television set that simply didn't work (and there I was hoping to watch the 'I'm a Celebrity' coming out party. Sadly not, unless I could get it working. Remember, I'm an hour ahead of the UK, so there was a chance. But I didn't bother. I simply went to bed.

Fresh fruit salad – absolutely perfect.
 With such a bad first impression of the hotel I asked the man on the front desk what was happening 'outside of the hotel' – meaning restaurants – and he said that there was nothing. The hotel, which, incidentally, is the Ramada Brussels, is located in a kind of business/residential area.It's a EUR25 taxi journey away from Brussels Midi. Yesterday, while initially writing this post, I warned readers away from the Ramada, saying it was a lairy place and that I didn't like it, but now, in the cold light of day, changed my mind. It was only a short journey from my appointment so once all the business was out of the way, I walked back to pick up my suitcase before heading into the centre of Brussels. But the friendly Japanese receptionist made me reconsider my general bad attitude towards the place and soon I found myself resolving to stay for lunch, given the amount of time I needed to kill before jumping on a homeward bound service at 1856. And once again, the hotel delivered and I forgave them many things, like the shower, which I had so much difficulty trying to work that I opted for a bath instead, and the plug in the sink which simply wouldn't close no matter what I did.

Room 324's dysfunctional bathroom.
Last night's meal was fine, although it was initially touch and go. From the reception area I found the restaurant easy to reach as it was just at the top of a flight of stairs. Trying to reach it from another angle was problematic. The hotel reception has two long corridors running off of it and at the end of each corridor are the lifts. This in itself is odd as normally the lifts are close to the reception area – but not here. I tried to find the restaurant by taking the lift from my room on the third floor to the first floor, but gave up as there were no signs. It was best to go to reception and take it from there. At the top of the stairs, the first thing I encountered was the bar, which was nice enough, and beyond it what looked like some kind of Japanese noodle bar. This was reserved for a large party of Japanese, the real breakfast room was, in fact, the restaurant proper. I walked through to the restaurant and I spied polished wine glasses and tablecloths, not forgetting a decent-looking menu.

I ordered the specials – wild mushrooms to start and pheasant as mains – both of which were fine, accompanied as they were by some bread and, of course, a glass of Duvel (I had two) and not forgetting an excellent fresh fruit salad to finish.

This was going to be a fleeting visit. Here today, back tomorrow night, and I gained an hour in the process, which was all good.

For dinner I chose wild mushrooms, which, while fine – they were fried mushrooms – lacked any discernible wildness. I could have made them myself as it appeared to be just a handful of wild mushrooms fried in oil. The pheasant, however,  was amazing (check out the pic) and the fresh fruit salad was just what the doctor ordered.

Electric trees near the Grand Place, Brussels.
It's too dark and too cold to go out looking for 'Boris Bikes'. There are 'Boris Bikes' here as I saw a docking station the following morning as I walked back from my appointment to the hotel where I had left one of my bags. The problem is twofold, however: first, the weather (it's a bit nippy); and second the traffic (similar to London) so I didn't bother. As I approached the hotel reception area at the end of my brief walk from the nearby Rue Colonel Bourg (venue of my earlier appointment) I noticed they were advertising the restaurant and thought it would be a good idea to hang around the hotel for lunch before heading into the centre of town later this afternoon (remember, I've got time to kill until 7pm before I take the Eurostar back to London). Solution: have lunch at the hotel. And it was a good decision. Mushroom soup (probably yesterday's leftovers from those wild mushooms on offer) followed by a whole sole with vegetables) and not forgetting a Duvel (just one this time) and another of those wonderful fresh fruit salads.

Once again I was the only one in the restaurant, but that didn't matter. I took out the flight simulator again and amused myself until the menu arrived, although, in all honesty, flight simulators are very boring and soon enough I got bored. Then I chose the above and awaited their arrival. It was a very enjoyable meal and while in an early version of this very post I advised people not to bother staying at the Ramada, I've now completely revised my opinion, although it's a little out on a limb, ie nowhere near the city centre. Having said that, it was just down the road from my appointment, which was the main reason for coming here in the first place.

One thing I must mention is something that always bugs me with hotels that try too hard to be trendy. They never follow the golden rule of 'function before form', meaning that they have taps and bathroom fitments designed and installed that simply don't work – or rather prove alien to anybody who tries to use them – and I fell victim prior to breakfast. I wanted a shower, but never got one as I couldn't work out how to turn the shower on. In the end I ran a bath. Likewise, I couldn't figure out how to close the plug on the basin and had to resort to a continually running tap as I shaved (what a waste of water).

So, a shower I can't work, a plug I can't work, a television I can't work, a telephone that won't work properly, the lack of a reservation when I arrived last night and a room that was huge, you might think it all added up to a bad stay – and intially it did – but to be honest with you, when I returned in the afternoon, I thought otherwise – thanks to a friendly receptionist and a decent lunch. I'm not planning on eating more than a sandwich later on (I had an egg and cress sandwich and a bottle of Pellegrino on the train).

How could I have forgotten the Grand Place? If ever you're in Brussels, make sure you visit this great square, surrounded by fantastic architecture and, if you're there at night, a free light show. I remember back in 2004 when my photographer Rob Wilkinson and I were sitting on the Grand Place, sipping a Belgian beer and killing time after dinner before heading back to the hotel, when, suddenly, the square came alive with the most amazing light show and music, sometimes classical, other times more electronic and possibly even a mixture of the two. It's certainly a crowd puller and I couldn't very well go home without seeing it again. Taking the 79 bus from outside the hotel to the Metro I travelled on to Brussels Central Station where I alighted in the dark (it was around 4pm) and made my way to towards the square. People were out Christmas shopping, the shops were alive and illuminated – and so were some of the city's trees (see photo).


Sunday, 8 December 2013

A couple of nice images...

Christmas lights, Whitgift Centre, Croydon
Early evening from my office in Redhill, Surrey

Two rides, two days – to Tatsfield Bus Stop and Tatsfield Village

Once again, I expected cold weather in the form of frosted cars and frozen grass. We'd certainly had some during the week and, for weather nuts, the whole of the Eastern coast of the UK experienced a huge tidal surge, causing coastal houses to fall into the sea and plenty of flooding. You might be forgiven for thinking we were bound, at least, to get a soaking, but on both days it was fairly warm and bright and very clear. We could see the Shard and Canary Wharf all very clearly from a good 20 miles or so away.

Our bikes in the lanes off the B269. Pic by Andy Smith.
On Saturday we headed out to the bus stop and on Sunday we headed for the village. We'd talked about the Churchyard, but figured the benches there would be wet (with dew) so we switched back to our original plan – the village.

Once again, like the week before last, we went the 'slow way' and endured the mildish pain of Beddlestead Lane, trying to 'sectionalise' it in our heads to make it seem shorter, but it didn't work. Today, for example, the place where we stopped to take the photos accompanying this post, was virtually at the end of Beddlestead Lane. We thought it was further back, but it was only yards from Clarks Lane, where we turned left and then left again into Tatsfield village.

Andy brought along a couple of rock cakes, which looked great, but I resisted in order to lose some weight, making do with a cereal bar.

Tatsfield, unlike Warlingham, hasn't gotten round to erecting its Christmas tree yet, which is a bit disappointing.

Nearing the end of Beddlestead Lane. Pic by Andy Smith.
On both days we made our usual farewells halfway along the 269 and reached our respective homes around 10am.

Andy won't be going next Saturday so I'll need all the will power I can muster to get out of bed and hit the road...unless Phil's there to provide the motivation. Phil's missed the last couple of weekends, but he'll be riding again soon I hope.

In the news

• Nelson Mandela died last week (on 5th December) aged 95.
• It looks as if MPs will be getting an 11% pay rise.
• The two men charged with the murder of Lee Rigby are on trail and are pleading not guilty.
• A huge tidal surge along the eastern coast of England has wreaked havoc. There's been severe flooding and many people were evacuated from their homes, some of which were swept into the sea.

Monday, 2 December 2013

No cycling this weekend...

By that, of course, I mean last weekend (November 30th to December 1st). Andy and Phil couldn't make Saturday and then on Sunday, minutes prior to leaving the house, albeit reluctantly, I received a text from Andy saying he'd had a broken night and wouldn't make it. Fair enough and, as I say, I was quite relieved. But it's not good news. I should have forced myself to go out, even on a short one to Warlingham Green and back, but I didn't. I slobbed around instead and when Andy texted me last night asking if I'd gone out, the answer was a shameful no along with a 'but I'll definitely be there next week'. We'll see.

This random photograph was taken by yours truly in the Birmingham area.
The weather is closing in, it's getting colder and Christmas is around the corner. Traditionally this is a time of year when the cycling slows down a little, but we should be getting out there and hopefully this week we'll be on the Green at Warlingham and ready to rock.

Westerham has already been suggested for Sunday and we might well be in Tatsfield Village or, indeed, our famous Tatsfield Bus Stop on Saturday morning.


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Warlingham dead body named...

The dead body found in Audley Drive, Warlingham, is that of Damian Chlywka, a 30-year-old Polish national. Two men have been arrested and bailed.

Audley Drive is very close to our cycle route, only a matter of yards to our left, just off of the Limpsfield Road.

Reports suggest that Mr Chlywka's body showed injuries 'consistent with an assault' according to Sky News.

For further details, click here.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

To Tatsfield Village...the slow way

Variety might be the spice of life, but when the cold, damp weather hits we have be a little sensible and it's Tatsfield Village and Tatsfield Bus Stop that offer shelter – meaning we don't have to stand up and drink our tea. Most of our destinations are uncovered, meaning that in the rain we get soaked and in the damp weather we can't sit down. Only Tatsfield offers both the convenience of a decent enough ride AND the comfort provided by a shelter. Alright, Godstone has a building that is covered, but I don't think you can sit down and besides, there's that awful hill on the way back.
Andy and Matt, Tatsfield Village, Sunday 24 November 2013

So today we headed for Tatsfield Village, the slow way, on the basis that the more familiar we get with Beddlestead Lane the shorter it will become.

We started off discussing cycling in London, which is big news at the moment due to the amount of people being knocked off their bikes by lorries and killed. My view? First, there's a lot of silly cyclists around who take unnecessary risks; second, there's a load of awful drivers around; and three, let's not forget that London is a busy place. Nothing like Montreal where the roads are virtually empty on a Saturday morning. Personally, I wouldn't ride a bike in London, not even a Boris Bike, although I do think it would be good if we could have established cycle lanes like those in Holland and, dare I say it, Milton Keynes. Over here in the UK a cycle lane is basically a line drawn in the road; there's no protection, no segregation from the traffic, nothing. Sort it out, England!

Then it was Doctor Who. I'm not a great fan. Apart from the Weeping Angels (and by that I mean the episode that first featured them) I think it's a bit naff – and it probably always has been. What I find rather irksome is the way the BBC are bigging it up all the time, going on about how scary it is, when it's not scary at all and then over-indulging themselves by over-staying the Doctor Who welcome with Doctor Who Confidential. My problem with Doctor Who is that it's not easy to suspend belief: the alien costumes are not realistic enough, it's all a bit juvenile and yet it's made out to be the best thing since sliced bread. It's not. I wouldn't go as far as saying it was rubbish, because it's not rubbish, it's just a little naff and I can understand why Michael Grade wanted it off the air when he took over at the BBC. Still, people like it. Millions of people like it, all over the world, so perhaps I'll reconsider an article I was writing for this blog along the lines of 'Doctor Who is Rubbish'.

When we got to Tatsfield Village and started to drink our tea, a man arrived in an old Nissan 2.0 that I loved. I can't remember the model; was it a DX? Andy will know. It looked a bit like an old Opel Mantra, but according to Andy it was rear wheel drive, which is rare these days, apparently. Most cars are front wheel drive. I really liked the Nissan, albeit an old N reg motor. Andy said it was good for 'drifting'.

I mentioned to Andy how, try as I might to buy myself a decent motor, I've always ended up with something naff, like a Morris 1300, a Honda Civic, a Cavalier...you get the picture. Oh for the day when I can buy a car that I wouldn't be embarassed about if I found myself on Top Gear. Not that I'll ever be on Top Gear, although you never know. If my novel hits the big time, perhaps? Watch this space. Then again, don't watch this space as it'll never happen.

Phil's sausage sandwiches of a couple of weeks ago were brought up by Andy – not literally – both yesterday and today. The general feeling was that his efforts were way beyond the call of duty. We both compared our morning routine prior to getting on the bikes with Phil's: putting on the grill, arranging the sausages, grilling them, cutting them in half, placing them in the bread and then individually wrapping them in silver foil after adding tomato ketchup. Nice work, Phil, if you're reading this; once again, respect is due.

We were thinking about Phil's fine sandwiches as a fine rain began to fall. Nothing too unpleasant. We both watched from the safety of the bus stop, but then realised that we'd have to head off sooner or later. The rain was so fine that it was almost non-existent as we rode towards Clarks Lane, turning right and heading for Botley and then the point where I wave farewell to Andy halfway along the 269. He's not going to make next Saturday, but Phil and I will probably go...or I might use the opportunity for a lie in, who knows?

The weather was fairly warm again and this time I didn't wear any gloves (unlike yesterday) and it wasn't that unpleasant, although, if I'm honest, I'd have been a little more comfortable if I had been wearing them.

It was a good leisurely ride and typical NoVisibleLycra weather. We saw a few Lycra monkeys en route, as always, especially going up Beddlestead Lane – we hear them first, chatting about stuff, probably pensions and financial planning. It seems as if the slow way, avoiding the B269, is now our preferred route as it provides us with a suitable work-out on a traditionally shorter ride. Taking the slower roads is by far the best option: we can hear traffic coming for miles and while the roads are empty we can ride side-by-side, chatting about this and that.

I reached home at just gone 10am, enjoyed a hot cross bun and a cup of tea and then had a most welcomed hot shower. Nothing could be better after a decent ride.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

To the Tatsfield Bus Stop...the slow way

Just when we thought we'd exhausted all the angles...an aerial shot!
I had been expecting unbearable cold: frosted cars, a frantic search for the balaclava, three jumpers and, of course, the gloves. But when I opened the front door and stepped outside, once again I was surprised to discover that it was fairly warm and, while I did eventually put on the gloves (in retrospect a good move) there was a moment when I thought I'd leave them behind.

I rode off alone to Warlingham Green, turning left into Ellenbridge, bearing left and then turning left on to Southcote Road and then hanging a right and riding up Elmfield Way towards Morley Road and a left turn followed by a right into Church Way.

The streetlights were still on as I climbed towards the church and then crossed into the churchyard and Sanderstead Pond where, for some reason, the ducks were a little more active than usual. Most of the time they are sitting on the bank, heads buried in their necks, but today it was as if there was some kind of regatta going on.
The bikes on a misty Beddlestead Lane. Photo credit: Andy Smith.

Sanderstead High Street's shops were coming to life. I spied a man in the estate agents taking off his suit jacket and making himself comfortable at his desk and then I passed the Shell garage with its illuminated forecourt and then Waitrose, a dim light letting slip that the store had yet to open.

The Limpsfield Road is pretty suburban on both sides all the way to the Green where Andy was waiting. We decided to head for Tatsfield Village again, the slow way, but when we turned left on to Clarks Lane after a gruelling ride up Beddlestead Lane, we opted instead for the bus stop where we did what we always do: eat cereal bars and drink tea.

Why so many padlocks when you could easily climb over?
The slow ride was good, especially Beddlestead Lane, and Andy and I kept abreast of one another all the way, stopping to take photographs half way along and then forging ahead steadily, passing a man walking his dog and a few cyclists, although not as many as usual.

While most of the time there was no cold weather – not really cold at any rate – there were times when we realised winter was coming. Any downhill stretch brought the cold and I noticed it later on as I rode down Church Way.

The weathermen had predicted that Saturday would be better than Sunday, but here's hoping there won't be a frost or rain tomorrow. With the weather getting colder and damper we opt for covered bus stops to avoid damp seats, which in turn means our options are more limited. There's Tatsfield Village and, of course, the bus stop, but I'd have to wrack my brains to think of other destinations that offer us cover and a dry place to park ourselves.

Atom Heart Mother? Cows grazing near Botley Hill.

Update on the Warlingham dead body...

More news on the body found in a well in a house in Warlingham, Surrey: it's been in the well (or wherever it was they found it) for two years and there is a suggestion, by some, that the killing had something to do with rival car wash businesses.

Monday, 18 November 2013

To Tatsfield Village...the slow way

Sunday 17th November: Westerham had been mooted, but in the end we opted for Tatsfield Village, the slow way. I'd half expected frost on the ground this morning, but when I peered out around 6am, there was nothing. In fact, it wasn't really that cold. Here we are mid-November and I've yet to don the gloves.

Phil aborted so it was just Andy and I that headed out from Warlingham Green towards Sainsbury's and beyond.

When I awoke this morning, the television news was talking about a body being found in Warlingham. The body of a male or female? That was the question and forensics were looking into it; the body had been found in a well and seven people were under arrest. News reports suggested that a house full of Eastern Europeans were under suspicion.

The Warlingham Green Christmas tree in all its glory
As I cycled along the Limpsfield Road towards the Green I wondered how far I might be from the gruesome discovery. Where, I wondered, was there a well in Warlingham, because that was where the body had been found.

It all happens round these parts. In fact, this sentence is written a good 12 hours later than all that has gone before it and this morning I discovered on the radio news that the body had been assaulted prior to finding itself in the well. The plot thickens, but this story has made the national news headlines for two days in a row so I'll keep you posted.

The ride was good. The weather overcast and sullen, but no rain and a slight bite in the air. The cold weather is on the way, say the weather forecasters, and it won't be long before we are greeted by frost in the mornings and biting cold air. At the moment, though, it's pretty mild out there, although I recall one November, a couple of years back, when it was so cold that somebody left an ice sculpture on the Green – that was a very cold day and then I think we had snow that Christmas (or just prior).

Riding to Tatsfield the slow way is quite a trek and we both agreed, as we hauled ourselves up Beddlestead Lane towards Clarks Lane that it was probably a better work-out than riding to Westerham – or at least on a par. I've probably said this before, but Beddlestead Lane seems never ending; there are signs along the way that mark the route, signs like the dead tree trunk that stands alone on the right hand side of the road, like a totem pole, highlighting that the end is nigh. In fact, the totem pole (as I call it) is probably the only real sign that the end of Beddlestead Lane is nigh. The rest of the road is hedgerows, fields, gates, the usual stuff you expect to find on an NVL ride.

As always on Beddlestead Lane we are passed by Lycra Monkeys, who bid us a polite 'good morning' as they overtake us – we the overladen horse and carts, they the sleek sports cars. Our bikes are 'tractors' of the highest order and certainly not ideal for the sort of riding we're predominantly doing. One topic of conversation that has risen it's ugly head many a time is that we should be riding hybrids, with more gears and thinner tyres and possibly even trade in our high spec hydraulic brakes for old-fashioned blocks. Why? Because of maintenance costs. My front pads need replacing, I've just replaced my entire rear brake, it's never-ending. As I remarked to Andy while we sat at the Tatsfield Village bus stop, my Marin Bear Valley Special Edition had something like 21 or 24 gears and in the 12 years that I  rode it (on the London to Brighton a couple of times, London to Cambridge and London to Oxford, plus the odd excursion out to Botley Hill long before Andy and I took up cycling, I never had one puncture, never had to replace the brake blocks, nothing at all. The Kona has been a completely different story, costing me, on average, about £150 per year. Still, I like it and I know that if I sell it on Ebay I'll only get about £150 so I'm holding on to it for the time being. Having said that, I've often found myself in bike shops viewing 'sensible' bikes with thinner tyres, mudguards, block brakes and the like; worryingly, it sounds like I'm gaining a bit of maturity. Next thing you know I'll be considering the value of a basket mounted on the front bars – "It's so useful!"

Warlingham Church Hall, taken Sunday evening.
We sat at Tatsfield, munching the cereal bars and drinking the tea and, in all honesty, we were missing Phil's sausage sandwiches, which last week were fantastic.

I reached home just before 10am, having parted company with Andy halfway along the 269 – we came back 'the fast way'.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

More views of nowhere...near Redhill

Not far from Redhill...
Another shot of the same place...

Friday, 15 November 2013

You're never far from nowhere...

Hard to believe we were in Redhill...or not far away.
Friday lunchtime – earlier today in other words – I went for a stroll around Redhill in Surrey. I crossed the bus station and followed the road under the railway bridge, bearing left and eventually hitting a muddy footpath that opened out into wetlands. And it was wet. No rain, just mud and overflowing puddles, not forgetting the reeds and the rabbits and the mallards, disturbed by our footsteps. Not good for being on foot, but perfect, I thought, for a bike.

We were out for an hour, but there was so much that we didn't see because we had to get back to the office. Never mind, I thought, this could be one for the bikes.

While out, I took the photos accompanying this post on my iphone. It's hard to believe that I was only minutes from the centre of Redhill. You are, as I suggest in the headline, never far from nowhere.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Cough, sore throat, cold...

Andy's Kona Blast rests against a tree somewhere in
NoVisibleLycra Land.
All week I've suffered from a bout of flu. Well, alright, not flu, but let's just say that since last weekend, when I noticed I had a sore throat, it's developed first into a dry cough and then the full monty: runny nose, sneezing, you name it. In short, I had a cold and for most of the week it was manageable and by that I mean I didn't feel ill or weary or anything so I continued with work. Wednesday was the bad day. I felt terrible and looked forward (as I always do) to a Lemsip. I've written about Lemsip before because it's one of those cough and cold remedies I wouldn't mind taking when I don't have a cold. There's something retro, something calming, about Lemsip.

So the weekend hits. I'd taken Friday off (and I'm off Monday too) and I really thought I'd be up for a ride. Alright, not on Saturday, but on Sunday I thought I'd be raring to go. When I woke up, however, I had a headache and decided to abort. I think Phil was grateful for the abort as he'd had a tough week. Andy went out for a ride and took the photograph accompanying this post.

I'll be back in the saddle next week without fail, weather permitting. Actually, just for the record, I can't remember the last time I suffered the symptoms of a cold; it was probably a couple of years ago, if not longer. I'll find out and report back... okay, here I am reporting back: it was January 2011.

Actually, one of the nicest things about having a cold is when it reaches that stage when you know it's going away and it leaves you with a retro feeling. Not so much deja vu, but you feel you're living in the past, the cosy past. It's hard to explain but if you know what I mean you know what I mean, I'll say no more.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Tatsfield Bus Stop and 'that rural bit we once visited'...and we didn't get rained on

There was a strong chance of rain, said the television weather forecasters and a few people in the office, meaning that there was a strong likelihood the rides would be called off to avoid a soaking. Fortunately, the rains stayed away and both days were absolutely fine.

Not far away, but in the middle of nowhere – Phil, Matt and Andy.
Saturday we headed for the Tatsfield Bus Stop, Andy, Phil and yours truly. We went the fast way and then sat there drinking tea and munching cereal bars. Sunday and we were going to visit the old bus stop again, until I remembered a destination that doesn't really have a name because it's in the middle of nowhere, there are no benches, no covered bus stops, just grass and hills. In fact, it's not really in the middle of nowhere either, but you have to get off the 269, head down Ledgers Road and then turn right into Washpond Lane before turning left and then riding for about 20 yards until you reach a rough track that leads down to (ahem) nowhere in particular.

The off-road path is steeper than I remembered it and there are concrete speed humps that merge into the landscape and can be dangerous if you don't see them coming. We all headed down the path, brakes covered and watching out for the humps and when we finally made it, we rested our bikes against a wooden fence and climbed over to the pointless stile where, on two previous occasions, we had enjoyed our tea and cereal bars.

Today, however, it was some excellent sausage sandwiches, courtesy of Phil, who had been to our local butchers. They were pretty tasty and were washed down with three cups of tea each. If the truth be known we went a little over the top with the water. Phil brought a huge flask with him and I bought the usual flask plus one of those Thermos cups. I also brought six tea bags so to have three cups each we had to use the second bag twice.

Phil's and Matt's bikes on Warlingham Green, Sunday 3rd November 2013.
While we were standing there admiring the view and drinking tea, a group of riders came down the footpath and carried on along a track that led to a steep climb some 300 yards away. We watched them to see if they would make it up, but knowing darn well that they wouldn't make it. Sure enough they didn't make it and then Andy figured he could do better and sped off down the track. He made three attempts, but did no better and admitted the path was too steep and too slippery.

We walked halfway up the footpath and then mounted our bikes and headed back along Beddlestead Lane and then turned right into Washpond Lane, left into Ledgers Road and then right on the 269 heading towards Warlingham Green where we parted company with Andy. We reached home just before 10am.

The weather this weekend was excellent. This morning (Sunday) there were blue skies, bluer than yesterday, but now, at 2120hrs,  it's raining, heavily, just as promised, albeit around 12 hours later than scheduled.

I went out in shorts and no gloves this morning, it was that warm, and yesterday the gloves were off too, although Saturday was a wetter ride thanks to overnight rain, which had left puddles in the road. The only reason I was wearing shorts today was because the track suit bottoms were soaked through due to the puddles.

Something else worth mentioning is our old pal, known by Andy and I as 'Dawes Galaxy'. That's the name of his bike, we don't know his name, but he joined us for a brief chat yesterday (Saturday).

This morning Andy was late due to a puncture and he got another one after he left us at Warlingham Green, he informed me in a text. My bike seemed fine and I couldn't hear the knocking caused by the bottom bracket for some reason, although I'm sure it'll return again soon.

Waiting for Andy on Warlingham Green, Sunday 3rd November 2013.
We met one of the gung-ho cyclists this morning, just Phil and I as Andy was fixing his rear wheel puncture. We don't know the guy's name, but he's alright and was showing off his new Yeti mountain bike. He'd bought the frame on Ebay and then built the bike himself. Not bad at all. In fact, it put my Kona to shame. The Yeti was lightweight and had 27 gears. The gung-ho cyclist was waiting for his pal to turn up, but it looked as if he wasn't going to show so the GHC went off alone and we continued to wait for Andy who came along shortly afterwards.

All things considered it was a good ride on both days. Alright, a wet arse on Saturday for yours truly (for having no mudguards) but a dry and refreshingly blustery day this morning – perfect for riding.

Thoughts on Montreal...

It was good to be back in Montreal as I like the city, mainly because the traffic is far less intense than over here in Greater London, meaning that riding a bike is not life-threatening. Some days the roads are empty and, as you can witness from my last post, it's possible to stand in the middle of the street and take a photograph of the bike parked against the kerb.

Room 535, Hyatt Regency, Montreal – a bit corporate.
The other good thing about Montreal is the way residential houses can mingle with the urban constructions of the city centre; you don't have to ride far before you find what look like affordable places to live. Now you could say that London's like this: get off the train at Victoria and you're only a walk away from residential property bang in the centre of town, but in London, of course, it costs a small fortune and for this reason the place is populated mainly by rich foreigners. "London is full of Arabs," as Elvis Costello once warbled.  Whether Montreal is the same, I don't know, but I doubt it.

The only thing there seems to be a lot of in Montreal is tramps and, oddly, they're mostly astute, young people, sitting there on the streets with pieces of cardboard explaining their predicament to passers by.

Montreal as seen from room 535 of the Hyatt Regency hotel
The last time I was in Montreal I walked a fair way along Sherbrooke and not once did things deteriorate. This time, on the Rue Sainte Catherine, things did deteriorate at either end, with the shopping area of the city somewhere in the middle. Carry on beyond it towards Cabot Square and things get a little dreary. In the other direction there's a couple of sex shops and a few sleazy establishments mingled in with pawn shops and other lower grade retail outlets.

I was staying in the rather corporate Hyatt Regency (room 534 on the fifth floor) which afforded a pleasant enough view of the city. What was quite impressive was the Complexe Desjardins, a kind of subterranean shopping mall with plenty of food outlets and a pleasant fountain as a centrepiece. I say 'subterranean' because to reach it from the hotel I had to take a lift down from the ground floor to the 2nd floor (starting from the 6th floor, which was odd in itself because the 6th floor of the lift near the bar was effectively on the ground floor). In other words, from the ground floor there were lifts going up to the rooms and down the the shopping mall.
Street theatre in front of a Bixi bike docking station, Montreal.
It was possible to walk through the mall and into the Chinese quarter of town, which I never got to explore even if I did promise myself another ride on the Bixi bikes later on (I had a 24-hour pass, which meant I could ride a bike, dock it, do something, pick up another bike and so on until my 24-hour period elapsed. Still, you can't have everything and I was there to work.

The shops were impressive – a woman's dream, no doubt, as there was Zara, Banana Republic, all the big brands you expect to find in an international city. My favourite shop was called Roots, mainly because of a fantastic bobble hat ($38) that boasted tea cosy proportions and would be ideal for the cold weather we're expecting here in the UK any time soon. I say 'any time soon', but let's assume that the early months of 2014, which are now weeks away, will be characterised by extreme cold, icy roads and snow. These days it seems that we never escape it, although a white Christmas is never, ever on the cards.

Montreal has much more severe winters than we do in the UK, but it goes without saying that the Canadians somehow cope without having to shut everything down. As I write this, it's minus 3 degrees in Montreal and there are clear skies. Here in London it's 11 deg C and partly cloudy. In fact it's mildly blustery too, but refreshing.

I was in Montreal for five nights and six days. I flew out British Airways on Saturday 19th October and flew back the following Thursday on a night flight. Both ways the flights were good, thanks to Morrissey's Autobiography, which I've probably mentioned before. The flight to Montreal is not long – only six hours – and it goes by pretty quickly as the service is good (if you fly BA). On both flights I had an exit seat (for more leg room) and apart from about 20 minutes of turbulence coming back, the flights were smooth and I seem to have conquered my mild apprehensiveness towards flying. This, of course, is fairly natural when you consider how often I have to fly these days...but I'm not complaining.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cycling around Montreal...again!

The start of the journey on the Rue Sainte-Catherine.
The last time I was here it was late August 2012. Now it's October 2013 and it's a little colder. I had planned to take out one of Montreal's famous Bixi Bikes yesterday (Sunday 20th October) but a mixture of that slight bite in the air and general fatigue meant I postponed it until today. Even today was kind of on a whim. I was walking down the Rue Sainte-Catherine, a street that disects Montreal from one end to the other almost, except that this time, instead of going into the main shopping drag, I went the other way where things got a little ramshackle in places: graffiti on the walls and general sleaze. As I say, I was on foot, but then I spied a row of Bixi Bikes and decided that I'd go for it.

Every time I take out a bike, be it in Germany or San Antonio, it doesn't matter, I'm still going to get problems and once again, I spent hours trying to figure out what to do, and eventually discovering that the process was quite straightforward.

The port area adjacent to Montreal's old town.
Once the bike was out, I headed further along the Rue Sainte Catherine, moving away from the shops in the centre of town and heading God knows where. The traffic was mild so there were no problems on a safety front and the bike seemed to work well, even if the brakes were almost non-existent. I reached a busy road (Avenue de Lorimier) and had to turn right and there in front of me a huge bridge. I turned right on to Boulevard René-Lévesque Est, and followed an equally busy road using a two-lane cycle track, which took me back towards the city via the cobbled streets of the old town and, indeed, the old port where I stopped and took a shot of the Bixi with a boat in the background, then I jumped back on, retraced my steps towards the old town and enjoyed the tranquility of the ride.
The cobbled streets of the old town...

The skies darkened, threatening rain, but it was holding out and I was enjoying the fresh air as I found University and followed it all the way back to the Rue Sainte-Catherine where I turned left and headed back towards the bike station from where I had released the bike. Then, having replaced it in docking station, I walked back up the street, stopping in a small café for a tea and a pastry and then heading back up the Rue Sainte-Catherine towards the hotel. I stopped off at an excellent music shop – Volume – that sold some great old CDs.

All the photos on the journey were taken on my new iphone – which I needed because my old phone was only tri-band and most of the USA and Canada requires quadband. I know, very boring, but as I spend a lot of time 'over here' I needed to sort the phone out. And also I'm a big kid who loves silly gadgets.

As I write this, it's 2329hrs at home in the UK and 1829hrs here in Montreal. It's not a bad place.

The Bixi Bike station on Rue Sainte-Catherine

The rider's point of view...
Further along the route...on the Avenue de Lorimier

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Fantastic Saturday, rainy Sunday

This weekend the BBC weather people got it right: they said – or rather their map indicated – that there would be rain during the night and then, by around 7am, the rain would move north, leaving the South East clear. I remember the rain in the night. It poured down and I could hear it hitting the conservatory roof, but by 7am, while wet and grey outside, the rain had stopped. When Phil arrived we both look skywards and while there was a nagging feeling that we might get a soaking en route to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (always a safe bet destination in rainy weather because it's covered) I put my trust in the weather people and headed off to Warlingham Green where Andy was waiting (and feeling a lot better after his cold).

From left: Andy, yours truly and Phil at Tatsfield Bus Stop, Saturday.
As we headed off along the Limpsfield Road, the skies above brightened, revealing blue skies and white clouds. We turned left just after Warlingham Sainsbury's and took the slow, more scenic route to the bus stop, albeit a slighter harder route in terms of general exertion. The quiet roads are far better than the 269, which always has cars racing in both directions. With the more scenic route we can talk more, except when we reach Hesiers Hill, which needs all the concentration we can muster. Hesiers is dangerous: a steep downhill lane with a couple of nasty blind corners. Only fools would descend without a wary hand on the brakes.

Once at the bottom, like a roller coaster, the road takes an upward curve and becomes Beddlestead Lane, a long, slow climb towards Clarks Lane, but very scenic with empty fields left and right and sunshine creating a strobing effect on the eyes through the gauze created by the shrubs and bushes.

Last week mist and horses, this week a hazy sunshine.
Reaching the bus stop is always a delight, especially once the tea and cereal bars are brought out. We chatted about what we'd do if won many millions on the EuroMillions. I said I'll buy a huge house on the South Coast, one with plenty of space, and then I'd build a ghost train and have it so that the entrance and exit – you know, the swing doors the trains crash through – are on either side of a grand fireplace.

I've given up buying Lotto tickets because I don't believe in the ticket price rise from £1 to £2. It's all about greed, hence my decision to no longer bother, although I will continue with EuroMillions at work   and I might buy a Lotto ticket once a month. However, whenever I'm in a supermarket I always think, 'ah! I'll buy a Lotto ticket!' And then I remember that it's now £2 and I think of the fat cat bastard – there must be one at the top of Camelot – and then I decide not to bother.

Andy's bike on Warlingham Green
Sunday – rained all day, 

The same BBC weather forecasters who predicted Saturday's weather were equally right about Sunday's. What was annoying about Sunday was me leaving my mobile phone in the bedroom as both Andy and Phil sent out messages. Andy's was 'abort' due to rain; Phil's read, "BBC forecast is 'mist' 7am to 8am then 'heavy rain' 8am to 6pm. Just thought I'd ask what the likely consensus might be before I start the bacon sandwiches!"

Now, had my mobile phone been on the desk or anywhere downstairs I would have read this (and Andy's text) and sent back an 'abort' to Phil.

Moments later Phil sent another text, which again fell upon deaf ears; "Past the point of no return. Bacon going in now..."

I, meanwhile, had prepared the tea and was ready to go out. But now I'd checked my phone and seen Andy's 'abort' text. Phil was on the doorstep in high viz jacket and waterproofs. The rain had started, he said, and it sure had. "Let's not go, it'll be unpleasant," I said – or words to that effect – but as Phil was up and dressed (and certainly prepared for a ride) he said he would press on, so respect is due to Phil for a second ride in the rain, alone.

Before he set off, Phil gave me my bacon sandwich. I had a bit of work to do so I ate it in front of the computer screen. In fact, the only bonus in there being rain this morning was that I got my work done early and could chill for the rest of the day. I didn't do much: we had stir-fry and noodles for lunch followed by a drive to mum's for fruit cake and tea, then we bought a cake in Waitrose and the plan now is to sit and watch The Mayor of Casterbridge on television.

A strange-looking mist on Sanderstead Green last weekend.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

More photos from the weekend's Sunday ride....

On the slower and more scenic route to the Tatsfield Bus Stop

Horses with a bit of barbed wire and a pheasant or two
These shots were taken on Sunday morning's ride to Tatsfield Bus Stop. We went the slow way and, in fact, it could be argued that we should always take the slow route. It's a bit of a haul, but it's safer and more of a work-out, especially riding up Beddlestead Lane, which is a gradual climb all the way to the top.

It's worth mentioning, perhaps, that the weather is beginning to close in; whereas this time last year, the cold had already arrived, if you go back to early October 2011 we had 29-degree heat. This year, the summer has been amazing. Yesterday, for example, was a beautiful day, but I'm hearing reports that the cold weather will soon be upon us, meaning that we'll need to switch our rides back to meeting on Warlingham Green at 0730hrs instead of 0700hrs. This morning it was dark at 0630hrs and let's not forget that the clocks go back at the end of this month. Soon there will be frost on the grass and on car windscreens and the very prospect of wrapping up in scarves and many layers of clothing will not be appealing. Still, it has to be done if we're going to keep on riding. Even those horses in the photograph above will be wearing their winter coats soon.