Sunday, 2 June 2013

Botley Hill and the Tatsfield Churchyard...and great weather

As June arrives and so, it seems, does the good weather. It was a week of rain and overcast skies, but good weather had been promised for the weekend and while Saturday was a little suspect – grey skies and mildly chilly – Sunday was what old people would call 'glorious'.

An interesting cloud formation taken from Botley Hill. (Andy's pic).
We're still getting up early and meeting on the green at 0700hrs instead of 0730hrs, which makes things less stressful in terms of time, and early starts are helped by the fact that it's light at around 4am and the birds act like an alarm clock.

My rear tyre has been playing up. Last week I had three punctures (see previous post) and this week I noticed a slight wobble – I think the wheel is buckled. Add to that a non-existent back brake and tyres that are so thin and frayed round the edges that it feels as if, any minute, they might explode, and I think you'd be right in thinking that a trip to the bike shop was needed.

Despite aborting, Phil (our new accomplice) changed his mind about not going and was outside when I left the house at 0630hrs. He'd been out until the early hours and didn't start feeling weary until we reached Botley – but at least he got out in the air and had a ride.

We stopped at the Botley pub and chatted about motorcycles and pushbikes and then rode home. Saturdays are short because of commitments back home, but Sunday normally means a longer ride and while Westerham was on the cards, as I cycled up towards the green alone – Phil aborted – I thought the Tatsfield churchyard would be just perfect in the early morning sunshine. There wasn't a cloud in the sky – virtually – and when I reached the green, Andy called. Did I get his text? Being as my phone these days is either off or on silent, I didn't know, but yes, I did get it. Andy had overslept and said he'd meet me at Westerham. "Let's make it the Tatsfield Churchyard," I said and then set off alone.

I was right. The churchyard was tranquillity itself. There was somebody there tending to one of the graves, but other than that it was just me. I trudged up the small incline, across grass still damp with dew. There were birds tweeting in the trees and I could see for miles, right across to the rusting old gasometer in Oxted and beyond.

An almost cloudless sky taken from Tatsfield Churchyard (by Andy).
Andy joined me around 10-15 minutes later and I broke out the tea. We sat and chatted about how, if we had a lot of money we'd add stuff to our mansions, like ghost trains and the sort of gadgets you only find on Thunderbirds, like a secret tunnel leading from our bedrooms to the garage where our bikes would await us.

The churchyard proved a sublime place to be and we both agreed that we could have spent the entire day there if we had a radio, the newspapers and, perhaps, some more tea. The weather made it one of those days when we could simply ride all day and end up God knows where. Memories of Mike Carter's One Man & His Bike drifted back and, indeed, Alan Sillitoe's Down from the Hill and I brought up David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries, which I've been reading. It's fine, but I wish it was more about cycling than art and galleries and stuff. It's a touch 'artsy fartsy' but I'm planning to persevere with it. I remember when I bought it, back in 2011. I think it was for sale on Sanderstead railway station and cost me about 50p. Mine is the Faber hardback edition and it always brings back memories of that terrible year, dad passing away, the web design course, no work and, of course, that awful job that lasted just one month over in Dickensian Rochester in Kent. Still, best not to harp on the bad times.

After taking a few snaps, we wheeled the bikes out of the churchyard, down the rickety wooden steps and on to Clarks Lane. We headed towards Botley Hill and then parted halfway along the 269. I was home early, well before 10am, and helped myself to a large breakfast of two boiled eggs, fingers, bread and strawberry jam, tea and Weetabix (with cold milk and sugar). It set me up for the day.

Later we went to Shere for a drive and paid a visit to the newly renamed Dabbling Duck (previously the Lucky Duck) where, we discovered they took cards. I had a homemade Millionaire's shortbread and a pot of tea. After a wander around this quaint village, we headed home and had roasted chicken, salad and potatoes for dinner.

Now, as I write this, it's just before 7am on Monday 3rd June, a work day. Outside it's another wonderful day and I wish I had the day off to enjoy it.

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