Sunday, 30 June 2013

In the United Arab Emirates...

I've never been a fan of night flights for the simple reason that I can't sleep on an aeroplane, which means that, even if the country I'm visiting is only three hours ahead in terms of a time difference, I'm still lagged when I arrive.
Desert to the left of me, desert to the right, here I am...in the UAE.

I flew out of Heathrow on the 2200hrs Virgin flight and arrived at 0800hrs in Dubai. I was tired and needed a good night's sleep, but first I had to find the bus transferring me from Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi. After a brief moment of confusion, caused, no doubt, by the lack of sleep, I found the man I needed to find and off I went through Dubai, past the huge skyscrapers that characterise the place and on towards Abu Dhabi, about an hour's drive away.

The UAE is incredible, mainly because it's all desert. Sand is everywhere, not in the sense of in your shoes, on your clothes, but, unlike in the UK where buildings are separated by tarmac roads and grass and rivers, here, there is sand. You can see it best from the air as you arrive into Dubai, but even on the ground, in the hotel room, when I look out the window, four floors up, from room 404, all I see is sunshine and sand surrounding the buildings nearby.
Room 404 of the Abu Dhabi Holiday Inn...a very good hotel.
It is incredibly hot here. I've never experienced such heat before. It's hard to be out in the open air for more than a few minutes, mainly because the heat is humid and like being in a steam room. This is the only place where taking a dip in the pool on the hotel's eighth floor, will be a necessity rather than a leisure activity. Here in the room, here in the hotel, the air con works a treat, but as soon as you step outside...the heat hits you. This is not the sort of weather to take a stroll anywhere – although I need to buy some batteries – it's just too darn hot. Right now, in my hotel room, the curtains are drawn and the air con purrs away quietly. What would this country be without air con? I guess there was a time when the humble ceiling fan was all people had, and that tends to make things worse.
The view from room 404 – note the abundance of sand.

So the flight over was okay and everybody, it has to be said, is so polite and friendly, unlike in the UK. People call me 'sir' although I feel a little uncomfortable about that, but alright, there are people in the UK, certainly in the service industries, that might refer to people as 'sir' but over here, well it's not so much the 'sir' thing, just the overall politeness and friendliness that appeals to me.

It's Sunday and I've discovered that in the UAE people work on Sunday and have their weekends on Friday and Saturday. I admit that I found it odd that there was so much activity at 0800hrs on a Sunday morning. As the Virgin Airbus came into land I noticed six-lane highways choc-a-bloc with cars and while I know that a foreigner arriving in Heathrow on a Sunday would see an equally choc-a-bloc M25, the fact remains that Sunday here is a work day and not a day of rest. Having said that, Ramadan beckons. I think it starts on July 8th, that's why I'm here, getting an interview completed before everything shuts down.
The hotel pool. I took the photograph while in the shade, it was very hot.

When I reached the hotel and jumped out of the air-conditioned taxi/bus, I was hit by the heat and then relieved by the hotel's air-con. The check-in was straightforward and the staff were very friendly and helpful, which is always nice when you're tired and in need of sleep. I slept for a couple of hours and then phoned home where the weather, like yesterday, is also very pleasant but not half as unbearable as the Abu Dhabi heat. And what you have to remember is that, over here, the weather is always like this, there are no seasons like there are in the UK, this is it: heat, heat and more heat. It's not unpleasant, though, and far better than rain, although I've yet to see a cyclist. It's miles too hot for riding a bike and I don't expect to find any 'Boris Bikes' here either.

After making my phone calls I took a look at the pool and then had a late lunch: mushroom soup, butternut squash risotto and a couple of glasses of Cabernet while reading yesterday's Guardian: Tim Dowling (my favourite columnist); the Q&A – this week Imelda Staunton – the real life experience (about a man protecting his family from bear attack) and, of course the property page, which I love. This week it's all about moving to Saxmundham, which, to be honest, I'd really love to do as Suffolk holds many a fond memory, but the wreck of the week was in rural Essex and that doesn't appeal, I'm afraid.
Abu Dhabi from the 8th floor of the Holiday Inn. There's a lot of sand.

I've just finished lunch and here I am blogging. I've got a bit of work to do, but I'm seriously thinking about a swim. The pool isn't huge but, as I say, it's more of a plunge pool to keep the guests cool and I'm definitely going upstairs to use it, although tactics will have to come into play. I've only got a pair of black work shoes, which would look really stupid if I wore them, without socks to visit the pool as it will involve a walk and a lift journey to the 8th floor. I could go barefoot, which I think is the best plan, so I guess it's me looking like a typical 'Englishman abroad' – or perhaps that ought to be 'an Idiot Abroad'. Karl Pilkington, by the way, is excellent and, based on his television programme, I'm planning on buying the books he wrote to accompany the series.
Mushroom soup starter and a glass of wine in the hotel.



This is a real whistlestop trip. I flew out on the 2200hrs flight from Heathrow and I'll be back in London at just before 4pm on Tuesday.

If the weather cools down, which I doubt, I'll do some exploring, but it really is too hot to go out walking. I've got a little bit of work to do ahead of tomorrow's interview and then I'm going to take it easy.

The UAE is a really great place: pleasant, friendly people and the weather is amazing, albeit very, very hot. Definitely worth a visit.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

There's leisurely cycling...and there's cycling to work

I'm amazed at how life is made up of many different dimensions. Is there anything, I wonder, that isn't in some way multi-faceted? Take cycling. For me and those who read this blog, cycling is, in the main, all about riding out early in the morning on a weekend to a destination some way off where tea can be sipped and cakes eaten. Where cereal bars and bacon sandwiches are enjoyed in the open air and where light-hearted conversation completes the experience before the ride home begins.

There's such a difference between riding for pleasure and riding for a purpose – like getting to work in the morning. Some time ago now I remember cycling to Camden Town from my home in Sutton, Surrey. That was a terrible experience. I remember being one of those idiots wearing a mask as I headed in to town, breathing in all the fumes and generally watching my back for mad drivers. I never did it every day and I recall leaving the office later just to avoid the rush hour traffic.
This shot taken in Warwick Wold Road. I'd just come through that tunnel
underneath the M25. It's on the outskirts of Merstham.

I'm not working in London at the moment, but in Surrey, so you might think that the journey to work would be better, but in reality, it's the same old thing. It's not so much about the location or the ride, it's about the inherent stress of relying upon the bike to get you to work, rather than a train or a bus or a car.

My ride to work is, in fact, very similar to my route to Merstham at weekends when we head for Hunger's End, the caff. But the difference is that I'm not riding that way for pleasure. I'm not riding at my leisure. The moment I leave the house, the tension is on; the hourglass has been turned over, the stopwatch is on and it's all about getting from A to B.

The tension builds up when you think about what could go wrong. The worst thing, bar an accident, being a puncture. That would slow you down, demoralise you, get you worried about whether you'll arrive on time – or not!

So I off I go, having tried my best to remember everything I'll need: a clean shirt, a towel, some soap, the padlock for padlocking the bike outside the leisure centre, a pair of trousers to wear...the list is endless. But I remembered everything and was happy as I weaved my way through the suburban side streets towards the A23. I'd like to have avoided the A23, but that meant some punishing hills that would slow me down so I had to risk lorries, buses and idiotic office workers on their way to the office.

Yes, it's the Warwick Wold Road!
I got into my stride and as soon as I was on the A23, all was fine. I felt as if I was in control as I raced towards Coulsdon Town, under the bridge and on towards the M23 turn-off and then the first big landmark (the only big landmark) of the journey – Merstham. But this wasn't a lazy Sunday morning. Andy wasn't with me, nor was Phil, and I didn't have any tea in my rucksack.

Suddenly, something was wrong. The bike wobbled and, once again, a rear wheel puncture. This time it was a nail, but I didn't know that until I reached the bike shop. Stressed, pissed off, and angry, I turned the bike upside down with a view to fixing the puncture. But I was harassed. I could hear the clock ticking. It was 0745hrs and I had planned to be in Redhill by 0800hrs. Not any more. I had to unpack my rucksack to locate the pump and then, having taken off the wheel and levered the tyre off the rim, I pulled out the inner tube and tried, in vain, to pump it up. I wouldn't pump up. Standing there for a split second, swearing to myself, I figured I had two choices: wheel the bike to the railway station, take it home and then get a train to the office. Or, walk the bike into Redhill, buy a new inner tube, possibly even get the puncture fixed in the shop and then walk to the leisure centre, take a shower and get into the office.

Looking down on the M25 from the Warwick Wold Road. This is a good
cycling route for our weekend rides, lads...but not for commuting.
First I went to the railway station. It was only a couple of quid to get a train into Redhill, but I'd have to wait for 30 minutes so I decided to walk, listening all the way to the sound of the deflated rear tyre squealing as I headed to work. I went straight to the bike shop where a new inner tube would cost me £5.99 and to have it fixed in the shop a further £10. "I'll take the inner tube," I said, remembering how, a week or two ago I forked out the best part of £200 for a new rear brake and various other things (all detailed in a recent post).

I then walked the bike to the leisure centre where I paid £2.15 for a shower. I had to unpack the rucksack to find the soap and the towel and then, after the shower, I changed into my suit trousers and a shirt and headed towards the office where I padlocked the bike and started work.

It had taken me two and a half hours to get from my house to the office. By train it takes just 45 minutes. Furthermore, I'd forked out the same money, roughly, as a return ticket so I hadn't gained at all, certainly not financially.

At lunchtime I fixed the puncture and then after an afternoon of working I changed out of my suit trousers and donned the moleskins again, leaving the red tee-shirt featuring Sheldon Cooper in the rucksack. I headed off for home going up Frenches Road from a short burst of A23 and into sleepy Merstham. I turned right where School Hill joins the Bletchingley Road and rode through the housing estate towards Warwick Wold Road.

The journey home isn't pleasant after a day in the office and a morning from hell just trying to get there. Fortunately the bike didn't let me down. The terrain was very hilly, especially White Hill Lane, which I think I've mentioned before. Before that, however, I had to cross the M25 both under and over.

White Hill Lane is truly punishing, but when you reach the top you're in Chaldon and that means you're in Caterham and that means you're almost home. I was tired out. All I wanted was for the ride to end, but it persisted and the hills kept coming. Nothing is worst that White Hill Lane, but Tithepit Shaw Lane, going up from Whyteleafe is pretty close. You really have to knuckle down for hills and that's what I did. Once it was over and I was sailing down Wentworth Road towards the Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead High Street, the Gruffy, Church Way and home, my temperament improved slightly, but I was so utterly relieved when I opened the garage door, padlocked the bike and entered the house, vowing never to cycle to work again – not for a very long time.

I was so tired I hit the sack around 2100hrs. But I had a broken night, probably because I'd overdone it with the tea during the day. I had trouble sleeping and woke up earlier today feeling worn out and heavy-lidded. All day I felt down and tired and grateful for the fact that my bike wasn't waiting for me to ride it home.

Give me leisurely cycling any day. Even the route from Redhill via White Hill Lane would be enjoyable if the end game was a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge and then no work until Monday.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Late night aborts ride...

Where cycling was concerned, it was a terrible weekend. Saturday was understandable, but Sunday was a great day (in the morning at least) and I should have gone out. Instead, due to a late night, I had to abort and sent out texts to Andy and Phil around 0130hrs in the morning.

I awoke at 8am instead of 6am and did very little all day, apart from make a roast lamb dinner, which was alright. I'm not a great lover of red meat, it has to be said.

Looking out now, it's overcast and, judging by the trees, a little breezy. I'm considering riding to work, but in all honesty, I'm not sure I can handle the hassle: get to the office, padlock the bike, walk to the leisure centre, have a shower, walk back to the office...

There's still half an hour to decide meaning that, in 30 minutes, I'll need to have a shirt pressed, a pair of trousers put into a plastic bag, I'll need soap for the shower....oh, just get the train!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Wind and rain aborts ride

I had a feeling the weather would be poor this weekend, mainly because people had been talking it up, saying how it was going to be pretty murky. Sure enough, as my alarm went off, I could hear the wind and rain outside and reached for the phone to type out one word: abort.

There are grey clouds and the trees are wavering around in the wind; not the sort of day for a ride to Botley Hill and back. Here's hoping things will brighten up for tomorrow.

By the way, the date says 21st June, the longest day, but that was yesterday. Today is Saturday 22nd June. If I was writing this afternoon it would say 22nd June but I'm not, it's now 0725hrs...just because the ride was aborted doesn't mean I don't get up.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Botley Hill and the Tatsfield Churchyard...with bacon sarnies AND some of mum's fruit cake...

It's been a good weekend cycling-wise. The usual short one on Saturday – to Botley Hill – and then, on Sunday, a ride to the Tatsfield Churchyard. On Saturday three of us took to the streets – Andy, Phil and yours truly – and then, on Sunday, just Andy and I (Phil was in the London to Brighton Bike Ride, a 50-miler). So, in total, Phil did quite a bit of riding this weekend: 14 miles to and from Botley, an easy 10 miles to Clapham Common and then 50 to Brighton, that's rounded off at 75 miles.

Andy's mug and his bacon sandwich at Botley Hill.
On Saturday it was grey, but not cold. Rain had fallen over night and there were plenty of puddles to be avoided (especially if you're riding a Kona without mudguards). I'd been out to check my bike during the week, just in case the rear tyre was flat, but all was well. We met Andy at Warlingham Green and headed off along the Limpsfield Road. Phil had made us all bacon sandwiches, which went down well, washed down with some tea and, after a short chat we headed for home.

Mum's fruit cake at the Tatsfield Churchyard – two slices each and tea!
Sunday, it was Andy and I who met on the Green and headed out for the Tatsfield Churchyard. It was a pleasant day and this time we had mum's fruit cake, a nice big chunk that afforded us both two slices. I'd packed a kitchen knife and two plates plus the tea and we sat on our usual bench chatting about various things, including me losing my rag with Lloyds TSB (you'll soon be able to read the full account on http://the-bungler.blogspot.com) but let's just say that, what with my recent dealings with the idiot next door, the poetry incident with my mother-in-law (you really don't want to know) and now Lloyds Bank, you could say I'm losing it a bit. I think in court of law I'd probably have my sentence cut due to 'diminished responsibility', but anyway, it's all water under the bridge now except to say that people have been getting to me for no reason and, I must add, that I've not been at fault in any of the arguments. And look, I'd be the first to admit I was wrong (if I was) but you'll have to trust me on this, in all instances, I did nothing wrong. So, I said I'd forget about it: that's it, forgotten.

The cake was good and so were Phil's bacon sandwiches and the weather picked up as the day progressed. Oddly, it was one of those days when it rained while the sun was out...and then the rain stopped but the sun continued to shine.

After the ride I pottered around in the garden trying to pull out a bush (and later succeeding) before going for a swim at the new pool in Waddon. I've probably mentioned this before, but there's a new pool and at 4pm on a Sunday it's completely empty. After the swim, I sat in the armchair watching Diary of a Wimpy Kid, drifting in and out of sleep.

I noticed that Phil reached home around 3.30pm, which means he must have finished around 1pm, probably no later than 1.30pm (good going). He'd driven his Merc down to Brighton on Saturday so that he'd be able to put the bike in the back and drive home... rather than do what I did the last time I took part: I went back with the crowd having put my bike on the lorry bound for Clapham Common. It was back in 2007 and I'll never forget it. The ride was good, my first on the Kona, but when I reached Brighton Pavilion, right at the end, I fell off, grazing my hands and shoulder in the process. I was sore for a few weeks after that and could have wished that coach journey from Brighton further. The worst bit was passing through Croydon en route for London knowing that, had my bike been with me, I could have riden up the road towards home and would have been sitting in front the TV within 30 minutes. But no, I was on the coach back to London and would have to make my way to Clapham Junction railway station to get a train home to East Croydon (they allowed me on) and would then ride from East Croydon home – knackering after a 50-mile ride. Yes, happy days and I must do it again.

A good weekend of cycling. Andy and I covered 30 miles in total and, as always, it was very pleasant. I love that tired feeling that comes with hot weather and exercise. It makes going to bed feel great and I know it's going to feel good tonight.

It's just before 10pm as I write this and it's still fairly light outside. The longest day (June 21st) is not a long way off, a matter of days, but so far the weather could do with being a little more like the summer. The garden's looking good as I sit here, the halogen glow from the computer lighting up the conservatory. The television is on but both our kids are asleep and soon I'll be doing the same. Until next week...

Pix courtesy of Andy Smithclick here for more Andy Smith pix.


Monday, 10 June 2013

Cycling home from work, a huge hill, an even larger bill...and some bacon sandwiches

My bike, I noticed last week, had a buckled rear wheel to go with it's non-existent rear brake and, I discovered last Thursday morning, a slow puncture. In fact, where punctures are concerned, it's been a bad few days for the old Kona. If you recall, last week I had a puncture on Sanderstead Green. Well, it was the same puncture that I'd fixed God knows how many times, first on Green, then back home (twice if I recall) and then, when I went outside last Thursday, the tyre was flat. What a disaster.

The bike needed repairing as the buckled wheel was proving difficult to ride so I pumped up the tyre, hoping it would be a slow puncture (it was) and rode to the railway station en route to Redhill.

In the bike shop (C&N Cycles in Redhill) I went through what needed to be done: rear brake, buckled rear wheel, new rear tyre and inner tube, pump up the front forks and that was that. "That'll be £85!" Well, that's not too bad, I thought, leaving the bike in the care of the shop and heading for work.

Costly repair bill
I was hoping I'd get it back the same day, but it wasn't to be (it never is). Why wasn't it ready? Well, that rear brake, that's why not. "It's completely gone. You're going to need a whole new brake," said the man in the shop. How much? Well there were three choices: £60, £80 and £90.

"What would you choose?" I asked the man.
"The £60 system, but we've got none in stock for a couple of weeks."
"Oh, what about the £80 brakes?"
"No, we don't have them in stock either."
"The £90?"
"Yes, we have them."

Well of course he had the MOST expensive ones in stock and not the others, but I had no choice. I wasn't going to miss cycling for the best part of a month so I told him to go ahead and do it, which he did, and on Friday evening I picked up the bike and rode home...after paying £180!

I figured I could have bought a newish bike for that amount of money, with traditional block brakes – you know, the ones that screech and don't stop when it's raining. But still, at least I wouldn't have a huge bill. I saw a Ridgeback hybrid for £269, it had more gears than mine and, well, I thought it was probably a better bet than the old Kona. But then I figured that getting rid of the Scrap would be the end of era and, besides, it's still a cool bike and I'm rather attached to it. It took me a couple of days to work all this out, and it still niggles a bit.

Rip-off merchants in greedy Britain
What niggles more, however, is the thought that I might have been ripped off. How was I to know that the bike needed a whole new braking system? I was under the impression that it simply needed bleeding. I knew that the rear brake worked, for example, if I pumped it, and the guy in the shop told me that it probably only needed bleeding when I mentioned it to him some months ago. But no, it needs an entire new braking system – or does it?

It seems that these days everybody's a wide boy, trying to rip somebody off just to make a few bob. But when a bike repair shop, supposedly of some repute, says you need a new rear braking system, what do you do? Say "no I don't"? Well you can only do that if you're an expert bike fixer, which I'm not, so you're left with the choice of getting it done or not and if you take the latter route, well, you end up paying for a half-finished bike as they're bound to charge for labour and, of course, everything else they've done.

What really annoys me about this is that, whenever I take my bike (or myself) into be repaired (and by me, I mean when I visit the dentist – another rip-off merchant) there's always something to be done. Sticking with the bike, if I took it in and said, "can you fix the nut on my front wheel?" you can bet that when I returned to pick it up or ask how things are going, they will say something like, "it's fine, but you're going to need a new X or a new Y because the X has gone..." or words to that effect. Nothing is ever clear cut.

Cycling home from Redhill
So I headed off home from Redhill during rush hour and didn't really fancy the A23. Instead I branched off into Frenches Road and took a quieter route to Merstham before hitting the countryside and some nasty hills.

The people in the bike shop had extended the saddle, giving the bike a whole new riding sensation. I found that I could tackle major hills with ease – or more ease than normal – and it was great. I rode through the housing estate in Merstham, which wasn't that bad; there was plenty of green space for a start and let's face it, everywhere looks good when the sun is shining. All day it had been grey and rainy, but as the afternoon wore on the sun began to shine.

I turned left into Warwick Wold Road and powered my way towards Springbottom Lane, familiar territory from earlier rides to Merstham via The Enterdent. I rode the length of Springbottom and then turned left on to White Hill Lane, a major hill, worse than most of the others we'd tackled, including Titsey, and then found myself in Chaldon, near Caterham. Fairgrounds were in full swing (it was a Friday evening) as I hit Caterham and called Andy for the quickest route to my house.

Down Banstead Road, past Auckland Road, home of our mate Dave and then across the road, into (I think?) Burntwood Lane and then left on to Whyteleafe hill. I headed towards the Whyteleafe Tavern, crossed the mini roundabout and prepared myself for Tithepit Shaw Lane, a major hill. I managed it with ease and then cycled on past Warlingham School and into Wentworth Way before turning left again on to the Limpsfield Road, very familiar territory. Sanderstead beckoned. First Waitrose appeared and then the High Street and soon I was on the Green, crossing through the churchyard and the Addington Road and into Church Way.

I reached home before 7pm before everybody else and I felt energised enough to make dinner. It was a good ride and one I must do again some day soon.

Bacon sandwiches
Saturday was not so good. I reached Warlingham Green and then got a double puncture, a carbon copy of what happened last week. But there were bacon sandwiches, courtesy of Phil, and because Andy wasn't there, we were forced to eat his too. Phil agreed to ride back, pick up his estate car and give me a lift home. Sunday, with the big fixed – I left the wheel off the bike over night just in case it went down again (it went down twice on Saturday afternoon). Prepared at 6am to make an 'abort' text, I trudged out to the garage and found the tyre as solid as a rock. Phil was there at 6.30am and we set off first to Warlingham Green to meet Andy and then headed for the Tatsfield Churchyard. In total about 30 miles of riding.

Photos to come.

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.