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 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 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.