Sunday, 31 August 2014

To Westerham...(22 miles)

If you're going to break the law, the best time of day is the early morning and I tend to do it once or twice a week, at the weekends. I'm not talking major stuff, like robbing a bank or indulging in a bit of house-breaking. No, simply riding the wrong way along a short stretch of one-way street and then riding through red lights – temporary lights, I hasten to add, along Church Way where there are some roadworks underway. It's a three-way set of temporary lights and, to be totally honest, at 0700hrs on a Saturday or Sunday morning there's never anybody around and if I really wanted to, I could simply ride on the pavement to avoid law breaking – although would that be law breaking too? – but in all honesty, I quite enjoy a bit of anti-social behaviour, especially when I'm wearing my rather ridiculous ASBO specials (as I tend to be most weekends when out on the bike).
Those ASBO specials should be locked away.
The weather was fantastic. Well, perhaps that's too strong an adjective, but compared to yesterday (when I decided not to ride out) it was lovely: the sun was shining, there were blue skies and cotton wool clouds. Yesterday it was a little overcast and the skies threatened (but never delivered) rain.

I was feeling good today as I powered up to the end of Church Way, crossed the busy road at the top and then sailed through the churchyard, across the green, past the pond and on to the Limpsfield Road. I powered along towards Warlingham Green where, at around 0730hrs, Andy was already there waiting for me.

An executive decision has been made. Andy was saying last week that he was having trouble getting to the green for 0700hrs. I know what he means. When I get out of bed at 0600hrs I like to chill for an hour, messing around on the computer, checking out the blog, drinking tea and having breakfast and when I've only got 30 minutes it's a bit tight. So the full hour chill is to return from next week, which will tie in nicely with the fact that it's September, the weather's going to get chillier and, sooner or later, the later starts will be back anyway.

The main reason behind the earlier starts is time. Or rather a lack of it, so we figured that to ride to Westerham and still have enough time to chill with tea, biscuits, cakes or sausage sandwiches, we'd need to leave earlier in order to get back home earlier. To a degree it worked and with the warm weather it wasn't really a problem, but that early morning rush wasn't pleasant so we're going back to meeting on Warlingham Green at 0730hrs, which means leaving the house at 0700hrs instead of 0630hrs. And let's not get beyond ourselves here: when we leave at 0630hrs for Westerham, we get there 10 minutes earlier than when we leave the house at 0700hrs so something's afoot. God knows what, though.

Today, wary of the fact that a later start would normally mean a shorter ride – usually the Tatsfield options of bus stop, village or churchyard – we decided to push the envelope and head for Westerham, with one proviso: that we simply shut the fuck up, keep our heads down and get on with getting there, which we did, in just 30 minutes. We left the green at 0730 and we arrived in Westerham at 0800hrs, giving us a full 30 minutes to chill before leaving at 0830 (the time we'd normally leave if we'd left Warlingham Green half an hour earlier).

It was tea and biscuits today (I love those biscuits Andy gets from Tesco) and our conversation revolved around many subjects including the Ukraine, ISIS and Brook's saddles (I've been thinking about buying one, but they're pricey – over £100). We took the obligatory photo (or rather Andy did – see above) and then headed out of town.

The long haul out of Westerham didn't seem too bad today, but I remembered how the climb doesn't end until we reach the pub (the Botley Hill Farmhouse). Up until that point it's a bit of a struggle and en route we pass many a Lycra monkey, eager to get home to check on his pension plan.

Andy branched off half way along the 269 and I continued into Warlingham, Hamsey and then Sanderstead. As Phil and I have often remarked, there's something really pleasant about riding down Church Way knowing that a ride has been completed and we're on the final leg of the journey. Today was no exception. I felt good as I followed, possibly too closely, a Skoda Fabia, which had to slow down to tackle the speed humps and then, the aforementioned temporary lights, which turned red, prompting me to take the pavement (behind a jogger) but darting back on to the road ahead of the Skoda, which was still waiting at a red light. Fortunately for me, nothing was coming the other way.

I continued to break the law after turning a sharp left into Morley Road followed by a sharp right in Elmfield Way, riding on the wrong side of the road down the hill in order to make a fast left turn into Southcote Road and another sharp right into Ellenbridge, hitting that speed hump just before the turn and allowing the bike to leave the ground momentarily. A brief period of 'no hands' followed but then, as I turned into Barnfield I jumped on to the pavement and rode home, getting back at roughly 0935hrs – really good going considering the later start.

Having not taken a ride yesterday, I'm glad we rode to Westerham as it meant we cycled 22 miles. It looks as if more trips to Westerham are on the agenda now that we know we can get there for 0800hrs if we just get our heads down, lessen the chit-chat and stop dawdling.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Being plain lazy...

Phil on holiday, Andy not going out and yes, I should have got out of bed and headed off on the bike, but I didn't. Why not? Because I stayed up later than usual on Friday night and didn't hit the sack until midnight and then, when I overslept – which, in my world, means waking up around 0700hrs – I made some Shredded Wheat, chilled a bit, checked out the weather through the conservatory window, and, by rights, I should have gone out. An urban ride might have been good: over to mum's for breakfast, meet Bon in the process, chew the fat and then ride home, but I didn't. Instead I kind of sat around thinking about it, going as far as looking for my trainers, but then I just said something like "Oh, sod it, I can't be arsed." And that was it. No riding.

Instead I lounged around a bit and then later drove over to mum's and had lunch. We went out for lunch, which was great. Banstead. Haven't been there for a while. Parked in the Waitrose car park – which is now on two levels, not just one – and headed over the road to the Edibles Deli – it doubles as a caff and offers waitress service. I had a ham-on-the-bone sandwich and a cup of tea. Mum had smoked salmon and a glass of milk. It was pleasant. I drove her home and then drove home myself and then took a trip to Oxted and back, followed by pasta and wine and (ahem) the X Factor, which was good, although Cheryl Cole now has a poncy surname, something sounding a bit like Italian aristocracy. And my problem with that is this: she might have a poncy-sounding, affluent European surname, but she's still got that God awful tattoo on her arse – you can't buy class.

So, after some wine and the X Factor and pasta and sauce I settled in for a night of Jackass on Viva – my favourite TV show. Right now Johnny Knoxville is goofing around with a rattlesnake and it's 1120hrs. Time for bed if I'm going on a ride tomorrow.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Long way to the Tatsfield churchyard – Sunday 24 August

It's been a busy and – I learned this morning – a sad bank holiday weekend. Sad in the sense that I awoke to the news that Sir Richard Attenborough had died, aged 90. What a great man. Movies like Brighton Rock and The Great Escape to name but two, and in them his roles as Pinky and Big X respectively must surely go down in history as among the great and iconic movie characters of all time. Richard Attenborough was one of the greats of cinema and he was an accomplished director too.

Sir Richard Attenborough. Pic: Daily Mail
The busy element of the weekend involved a seven-mile charity walk, organised by the Dark Star Brewery, along what is known as the Downs Link, a disused railway track in West Sussex, which we joined at Partridge Green, just south of Horsham. The event was called 24/7 because there was a 24-mile bike ride and a seven-mile walk or run. Next year I'm going to ride it with Andy.

The weather on Saturday was perfect for cycling and walking.

Because of the walk, however, I had to abort my usual Saturday ride, but Andy gets a 'respect is due' for riding alone to Westerham (and sending me photos as proof – see shots below). On Sunday I rode out with Andy to the Tatsfield churchyard – the long way. We left later than usual, otherwise we'd have probably taken a ride to Westerham, but it would have meant getting back later  and, as always, there were things to do back home.

It was a pleasant ride and pleasant weather too, just perfect for a visit to the churchyard, which is great when the sun is shining and it's not too cold. Having said that, as August comes to an end, the weather is beginning to get colder. There's a nip in the air and, as I rode off from the house, I started to think about wearing gloves again. Andy, I noticed, was still wearing shorts, but even he said that their days were numbered. We met at the Green and headed off in the usual direction, turning left at the roundabout just beyond Sainsbury's and following the country lanes that run parallel to the 269 towards Hesiers Hill and then Beddlestead Lane.

Andy and Matt, Tatsfield Churchyard, Sunday 24th August 2014.
We chatted about this and that along the way and when we reached the churchyard, we parked up, drank tea and munched on biscuits. Our conversation ranged from historical – the First World War – through to current world affairs (Israel, Gaza and Iraq) and then on to the blog and how we both enjoy reading it even when we know what it's all about because we ARE the blog! It's odd, we both agreed, that we look forward to reading, say, this post, despite the fact that we know what happens because we were there. But it's more than just reading about what we've been up to in the immediate past. The blog is all about looking back through the archive to find out what we might have been doing, say, two years ago. It's something to fall back on when we want to be reminded of something good as it charts the good times we have on our rides. We both agreed that cycling has a special quality to it, a spiritual element. It makes us feel good and we both admitted to feeling a little down if, for whatever reason, we didn't go cycling.

Our only regret is that we never started the blog from the word go, back in August 2006 when our cycling started out – the pioneering days of discovering new destinations (such as Godstone Green, Chipstead Lake and so on) – all places that are commonplace these days, but back in 2006 were unknown to us as cycling destinations. It's a shame we hadn't recorded those walks from Westerham to Oxted when a puncture meant a squeaky yomp to the nearest railway station (Oxted) and a short ride home on the train in the days before it crossed our minds to bring a puncture repair kit on the rides.

Andy rides to Westerham on Saturday 23 Aug
Next weekend – or possibly this weekend if the truth be known – marks the the 8th anniversary of NoVisibleLycra, but the blog is only five years old, meaning that there are three years unaccounted for and those years were, in many ways, the best years. We used to ride to Westerham most weekends (before we got bored and started searching for new destinations) and stand outside the Co-op munching on a Belgian bun before riding home again, but gradually we introduced the flask of tea and the cereal bars and now, of course, with Phil on board, we're eating home-made Bakewell tarts and bringing along plates and cutlery. For these reasons the rides have become longer in terms of time spent, as with tea and cake comes conversation and today, one of the best parts of the ride is reaching our chosen destination and tucking into hot tea and biscuits or cakes or even sausage sandwiches – although, to be fair, it's mainly tea and biscuits.

As always, the thought of getting back on the bikes and riding back is a little bit depressing as it's nice to sit on a bench in warm weather, mug of tea in one hand and a biscuit in the other, setting the world to rights or just having a laugh about something normally very immature in nature (we're all big kids). In fact it's quite amazing (and laughable) sometimes how childish our sense of humour can be when you consider that we all have adult responsibilities, but that's a good thing in my opinion.

Going back to destinations of old, I remember once we rode to Knockholt via Sundridge Hill, a punishing climb if ever there was one (easily one of the worst hills we've experienced). When we reached the top (without dismounting) I think we rode along Main Road from the top of the hill to the green where there is just one shop (Knockholt Village Shop). It was raining hard and there was no cover (that and the hill are two good reasons why we haven't been back in a while). I don't even think we had any tea with us so it was definitely the pre-blog days. All very depressing, but oddly, I think we should go there again if only to tackle that hill once more.

At the top of the hill out of Westerham
Andy and I parted halfway along the 269 and that night I went to watch a movie – Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark – in a field (Sackville School, East Grinstead). It got a bit nippy, put it that way, but it was an experience watching a movie in the open air and something to remember and that's what counts. Click here for more.

Now, it's Bank Holiday Monday and guess what? It's raining – it always rains on a Bank Holiday Monday. The sky is grey and it looks as if it's going to be wet and murky all day long. Cycling was totally off the agenda this morning. Andy was planning a lie-in and while I thought I'd be riding out alone to Tatsfield or Westerham or Botley, the late night and the expected poor weather meant that I too would be having a rare lie-in followed by boiled egg and fingers, cereal, a banana and a couple of toasted crumpets...not forgetting a cup of tea.

Andy might want to take note of this: I cleaned my bike  on Saturday afternoon. Got rid of all the caked-in mud and made it look a bit more respectable than some of the bikes you see on the road. I even oiled the chain! 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Solo ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop...the slow way

A pretty uneventful weekend on the cycling front. I had a text from Phil saying he couldn't make Saturday's ride and I knew that Andy wouldn't be going so it was time for a bit of self-motivation (which normally means a short ride to Botley and home). Having said that, the other side to self-motivation is that I tend to push myself a little further. Recently I recall riding to Westerham alone and then there was the Easter holidays back in April when I cycled every day for something like nine or 10 days.
Yours truly at the Tatsfield Bus Stop, Saturday 16 August 2014

I was tempted to do nothing, but figured the weather was so good (it was sunny and warm) I'd be foolish not to take advantage. Botley was on my mind, but I decided to ride the slow way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop instead, which was wonderful. I've said it before and I'll more than likely say it again, but cycling is really therapeutic and spiritually uplifting. Once I'd branched off the Limpsfield Road just past Sainsbury's I found myself really enjoying the tranquillity of the back roads that run parallel, give or take, with the 269. The sun filtered through the trees, there was a mild breeze and there was me, on a bike, taking it fairly easy, riding at my own pace and taking in the scenery: the cornfields, the hedgerows, the wildlife (mainly birds twittering in trees) and the occasional Lycra monkey whirring past me.

At the bottom of Hesiers Hill – one of the most peaceful places on our rides.
I stopped at the bottom of Hesiers Hill – which has to be one of the most peaceful spots on our rides – and just took in the silence, punctuated only by the sound of the birds, not even any sheep on this occasion. Once, I remember being watched by a bunch of sheep. I remember feeling a little strange about it as I got the feeling that they were talking amongst themselves – about me.  At one stage, two sheep seemed to be 'chatting' and looking over in my direction and then they called over their pals. I remember thinking it best to get back on the bike and get the hell out of there. You'll find the post in question by clicking here. Perhaps I was experiencing a little too much paranoia, but there you have it; there's more to sheep than meets the eye. Remember Babe?

Yesterday, however, there were no sheep. Perhaps they saw me coming. Perhaps they were being sheared in some nearby barn. Perhaps they were hiding and preparing for some kind of woolly ambush.

I made slow but enjoyable progress along Beddlestead Lane, thinking about this and that and taking my mind off the fact that the road always seems to be never-ending; it's only when I reached the 'totem pole' (that burnt out tree) and then the mobile phone mast, that I realised I was making progress.

The bike taking a rest at the bottom of Hesiers Hill
I free-wheeled along Clarks Lane and parked up at the bus stop. Time for tea. Normally when I ride alone I don't take any tea with me, but the original plan was to ride to Woodmansterne and see Jon and then possibly head to mum's for breakfast (and a slice of wedding cake). But Jon didn't return my text so I decided to head for Tatsfield instead. As I sat sipping tea and watching the world go by, the phone rang. It was Jon. We discussed the situation in Gaza and the Middle East and both agreed that the West should intervene against ISIS as soon as possible – what the hell are they waiting for? – and that a hard line should also be taken on Israel. Why is it, I wondered, that if anybody takes the Palestinian side of the argument, it's almost akin to blasphemy and they're accused of being anti-semitic? It's the same if you talk about immigration – you're branded a racist. Why should the Israelis always be given so much rope and be allowed – literally – to get away with murder? And how come they get to be in the Eurovision song contest?

Then, Tony Blair was brought into the discussion (he's never far away). I find it ridiculous that Blair is the Middle East Peace Envoy. I've said this before, I know, but it's akin to making Rolf Harris the UK's child protection 'Tsar' or putting Harold Shipman in charge of assisted dying. If it wasn't for Blair and Bush we wouldn't have ISIS. For all his faults, Saddam Hussein at least kept all the rival factions of Iraqi society in order and what's more, he didn't have any weapons of mass destruction, they were just a ruse to convince the American and British public that we had to invade Iraq – we didn't have to invade Iraq at all – and then, when Bush and Blair realised they'd been rumbled, they came up with the ultimate excuse: faulty intelligence. Iraq was only invaded by Bush and Blair in retaliation for 9/11 when we all know that the Iraqis had nothing to do with it – weren't the 9/11 terrorists from Saudi Arabia? In other words, Saddam Hussein was being used as a scapegoat and it gave Bush an excuse to get in there and win some lucrative reconstruction contracts for American companies like Halliburton...and let's not forget the oil. As for Blair, I can't think of a British Prime Minister who has been more destructive and a threat to world peace as Blair. And to think he was worried about his legacy! His 'legacy' is what is going on in Northern Iraq as I write these words.

The bike at the bus stop shortly before heading back home
Jon and I discussed stuff like this and then, after hanging up the phone I put my stuff away and headed home. I was going to go back the long way but decided against it as I'd left the house later than usual. I got back home around 1020hrs, did a spot of gardening and then headed to Wagamama for lunch followed by a mooch around Waterstone's and a few other shops, buying mundane items like lightbulbs for the kitchen and bathroom – not good old-fashioned bayonet or screw-in lightbulbs, but tiny, irritating, awkward little bastards that require a small black sucker device to fit them in their sockets in the ceiling. Why can't life be straightforward, I wondered?

Sunday 17th August

Today was basically a no-show for yours truly. I awoke this morning at 0200hrs – why, I don't know – and couldn't get back to sleep. I considered counting sheep, but knowing that they were after me for pissing on their parade back in the summer of 2011, I decided not to tempt fate. I started to have visions of a disturbance downstairs in the living room, going to investigate and being greeted by half a dozen angry sheep. "Remember us, Mr Moggridge? Hesiers Hill 2011? Next time you get off your bike to admire the view, think again." All I did, back in 2011 (see link above) was turn up, invade their space for a few minutes and then ride on, but they certainly weren't happy, I know that much. With counting sheep out of the question, therefore, I considered working out the area of the polystyrene ceiling tiles, like I used to when I was a kid back at home, until I realised we didn't have any ceiling tiles. I was wide awake as the time approached 0500hrs and had the choice of getting up and simply going cycling or sending out an abort text and calling it a day. Sadly, I opted for the latter. When I found my iphone on the ironing board I noted that Phil had already sent an abort text late on Saturday night so I sent one to Andy and went back to sleep. I awoke at past 0800hrs, had a late breakfast and now here I am at 1119hrs just putting the finishing touches to this post.

Andy motivated himself and rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop, the slow way, replicating my ride yesterday and, God willing, we'll all be back in the saddle next Saturday.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Andy takes on the challenge of Ride London 2014 and experiences heavy weather and the friendliness of the crowd

Andy Smith writes: My mate Sam picked me up at the crack of dawn – 0430hrs to be precise – and drove me to my alloted drop-off point on the Jamaica Road. Despite the early hour, the traffic was heavy when we arrived at 0530hrs and I still had a five-mile ride to the Olympic Park from where Ride London began.
Andy with medal and bike after Ride London 2014 – here's to next year!
The weather was fine. A little overcast, perhaps, and the roads were slippery, but nothing to write home about. As I neared the park I found myself riding with increasing numbers of cyclists who, like me, were eager to get started. But that British obsession with the weather was nagging at me and I began to pray silently that the weathermen would be proved wrong and that Hurricane Bertha had quietly slipped away and forgotten about the UK.

It was 0745hrs when I finally got underway, cycling through London with nothing but other cyclists and managing to overtake a few of the Lycra monkeys.

It took two hours to cover 40 miles but the time seemed to pass quickly and to say I was pleased would be an understatement. Pleased, that is, until it started to rain. In fact, the weather went crazy. First it was heavy rain. The roads started to flood. Then there was wind, heavy wind. At one stage I encountered a bridge covering a good ten inches of standing water.

The rain eased off after an hour but was replaced a few miles later with hailstones and then more heavy rain. And then, as if to add insult to injury, I got a puncture. Fortunately, a spectator held an umbrella over me while I repaired it and then did the same for another cyclist as she repaired her fifth puncture of the day. I crossed my fingers and prayed that I wouldn't be getting any more punctures as they seriously slow you down.

80 miles covered and the rain had stopped. It even started to warm up so I took off my coat and continued, showing off my SCMSTC tee shirt and managing to pick up a bit of a tan in the process. There was hot sun as I cycled back through Kingston and Putney and the spectators were fantastic – as they had been all day, cheering me and my fellow riders on. With the weather vastly improved, more spectators took to the streets and their encouragement kept me going.

The euphoric feeling I was getting as I cycled through Whitehall and rounded Trafalgar Square was incredible. The finish line at The Mall lie ahead and as I it I realised that this was easily the hardest charity event I had ever done – a real test of mental strength (you have to be slightly mental to embark on something like this, especially in severely bad weather).

I don't mind saying that I was a little emotional after finishing, something that took me by surprise. I collected my medal and prepared for the ride home through London's streets – just 15 miles to go. The hailstones returned and everybody ran for whatever cover they could find, but it only lasted a couple of minutes.

As I rode home I wondered whether I would consider doing it again. Well, would I? The answer was a resounding 'yes'. I can't wait to put my name down for it.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Long way to the bus stop, rain stops play Sunday, but Andy braves Hurricane Bertha for Ride London (and I buy an old fashioned telephone)

It's been a great weekend, put it that way. I was expecting Hurricane Bertha to hit early Friday and ruin the entire weekend, but no, there was rain Friday night – a lot of rain – but on Saturday morning the sun was shining and it didn't stop shining all day. While there was a strong chance of an 'abort' text to Phil (Andy was taking a rest) by the time the alarm went off at 0600hrs I'd been out of bed for a good 20 minutes and was ready for a ride.

A chirpy Phil was outside at 0630hrs and despite a bit of faffing about on my part, we were soon on our way. The plan was the slow way to the Tatsfield bus stop, giving us the space to chat, and when we reached the bus stop, Phil brought out the Mr Kipling cakes – Bakewells and a Battenburg. Now, I've got to start watching this. I've managed to lose a fair bit of weight lately, but over recent weeks I've succumbed to the odd bit of cake and a few biscuits. It's generally alright on the ride as we burn it off, but either way, it's got to stop.

Mr Kipling does make exceedingly good cakes...
Having said that the cakes were good. Phil and I were in a great frame of mind. Phil had a broad grin on his face for most of the ride (apart from when he was eating cake) and I was feeling pretty chipper too. But then we chatted about religion and life after death – always a bit of a downer, but there you have it. Where do we stand? Well, it's hard to say. I'm a believer in Pascal's Wager, which basically stipulates that you might as well believe in God and the after life and that way, if it's all true you won't be turned away at the Pearly Gates. For me (and I guess most people) the big fear of death surrounds the notion of being able to experience non-existence, but then, as I said to Phil, I can't remember what I was up to in, say, 1914, and I'm guessing that's what being dead is like. Who knows? Not me, that's for sure. I live by the phrase 'I am me and this is now' because in my book it's all about the here and now, nothing else. We're all like Gromit in The Wrong Trousers, throwing track down in front of the locomotive as we progress through life.

Andy's time on Ride London 2014
So we rode home the fast way and later in the day met Andy who was coming over to pick up Phil's cycle rack for the Ride London event on Sunday. This was going to be some achievement in my opinion. A 100-mile cycle ride over some tough hills and the weather – as it turned out – was abominable: driving rain, wind, hailstones (an 'abort' text in the making if ever there was one) but Andy was having none of it. He was up a some ridiculous hour and I have to admit, his progress was always somewhere on my mind as I went about whatever it was I was doing on Sunday morning. I went to the Bluewater shopping centre where I bought a retro telephone from John Lewis. Yes, I'm now the proud owner of a black Bakelite telephone with a traditional English ring tone from days gone by. Whenever it rings I'm reminded of those great old black and white movies. You know the sort of thing: Richard Wattis, Will Hay, The Titfield Thunderbolt, James Robertson Justice, good old 'Inspector here!' movies.

[The phone rings.]

"Inspector here!"

[Pregnant pause.]

"What? Right away, sir!"

Cue old-fashioned black police cars with bells embedded in their radiator grills.

Ever since I plugged it into the wall I've been whistling the theme from The Dambusters and thinking about Barnes Wallace and the bouncing bomb. Brilliant!

But let's get back to Andy's mammoth jaunt. The weather was terrible but he finished well within time and, taking into account the ride home from the finish line (at The Mall) to his house in Caterham, he rode, in total 112 miles in seven hours and 34 minutes – in appalling weather. Respect is due, especially when you consider that there was no cake waiting for him at the other end, just the finish line and the prospect of a 12-15 mile home. A top man!
"Inspector here! What? Right away sir!" My new telephone.

The odd thing about the weather was that it improved around lunch time. In fact, the sun shone from thereon and while it's looking a bit dull out there now (at 2030hrs) it's been a fairly good day.

We'll all be back in the saddle next weekend and I'm hoping we'll be heading for Westerham, although I'm going to pass on the cake... but until then, I've got a new telephone to play with; it's definitely a 'telephone', not a 'phone'. It's also heavy, like a 'telephone' should be and I love it. Yes, I know, I'm very sad. Very, very sad, but it's great and I also feel good because I got a bargain. You can buy this phone for £49.95 today from John Lewis, but I got mine for just £15! Now that's a bargain! I'll shut up now. Mind you, Made in Chelsea New York is on so I'll probably remain in the conservatory. Now, who can I call? Mind you, I wish somebody would call me as the ring tone is the best. Seriously.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Spur-of-the-moment solo ride to Chipstead Lake...

Perfect cycling weather. A hazy sunshine. I decided to ride to Chipstead Lake for a late snack in the Bricklayer's, a Harveys of Lewes pub.
Only eagle-eyed readers will see my bike through the pub's window.

Departing at around 1230hrs I followed the usual NoVisibleLycra route up Church Way, across Sanderstead Green – otherwise known, for some reason, as The Gruffy – and along the Limpsfield Road, which, understandably, was a little busier than usual as it was a mid-week lunchtime and every man and his dog was on the road. White van men whistled past me, a heavily tattooed woman – who I initially thought was wearing patterned tights – walked on by and soon I was approaching the first official marker, Warlingham Green. I didn't stop, but continued on towards Warlingham Sainsbury's and that strange coffee shop just beyond it called Amano, which used to be a pub. Normally when I pass it's closed because it's very early in the morning, but today it was open and seemingly very busy. I've always wondered how Amano was performing in a business sense. Outside there was a blackboard announcing that the garden was open, reminding me that it was once a pub. I caught a glimpse of a gleaming servery counter as I rode past and made a mental note to pay a visit one day as it might be worth it.

Ham sandwiches, chips, salad and a pint
Soon I passed Knight's Garden Centre and the five-mile marker came into view. Ledgers Road marks the point where, if I turned back, I would ride a total of 10 miles by the time I reached home. But I was going further. I followed the 269 towards Botley Hill. There was very little traffic, but more than I was used to, so I watched and listened for signs of nutters and kept as far to the left as I could without falling onto the grass verge. Motorists round here don't like cyclists because they think they should use the cycle path provided for them. What they don't realise is that the path in question is lined with Hawthorn bushes and I was in no mood for a puncture, not at this early stage of the ride.

After a short while I found myself at Botley Hill, a kind of junction point as, from there, I could ride straight on for Oxted, turn right for Godstone or left for Westerham. I opted for the latter route and sped down Clarks Lane past the Tatsfield Bus Stop and then past the entrance to the churchyard before reaching the twisting road that leads down to Westerham. I slowed as I reached the final bend right and instead of continuing towards Westerham I branched off left and followed the Pilgrims Way. From here onwards the ride was sheer bliss.

The early part of Pilgrims Way is flanked by fields on the right and expensive detached homes set back from the road on the left, but after crossing Westerham Hill (A233) there are fields on either side and it's easy to forget where you are, and by that I mean you're never far from civilisation.

Chipstead Lake or Longford Lake? I wish I knew
After crossing Hogtrough Hill, the Pilgrims Way continues, crossing Brasted Hill and making its way to the foot of Sundridge Hill where I turned right into Ovenden Road, enjoying the warm breeze and the sunshine and green hedgerows on either side of the road, which concealed more cornfields. The Ovenden Road bears left and runs parallel to the M25 for a short while until it joins the Chevening Road. I turned left here and followed the road to Chevening Cross. I turned right and followed the road over the M25 and down into Chipstead village and the pub. It was almost 2pm.

Across from the pub there is a small green leading down to the lake. There is a sailing club on the lake and some of its members were taking advantage of the warm weather. Sailing dinghys were out in force displaying colourful sails as they weaved their way back and forth across the vast expanse of water hemmed in on all sides by trees and bushes.

Cornfields along Pilgrims Way
I padlocked the bike against a bench and went in search of a pint of beer. Harvey's Lewes Castle, a brown ale (4.8%) seemed like a good choice so I ordered one and a round of ham and mustard sandwiches. Pint in hand, I headed back to the bench to enjoy the fresh air, but I forgot how annoying eating and drinking alfresco can be, thanks to pesky wasps trying to get a swig of my pint. In fact, I decided to head back to the pub and sit inside when I spied the woman from the pub marching towards me with my food order. I stayed put for all of five minutes, but having spilt some of my pint trying to swot a wasp I decided to head indoors where I found a shaded seat by a window looking out on the lake and my bike padlocked against the bench.

The sandwiches were fantastic and so were the accompanying chips and side salad so I ordered dessert. Apple and berry crumble with a tiny jug of custard, plus another pint, and sat there reading the Daily Telegraph.

More cornfields on the Pilgrims Way
Later on, having paid the bill and finished my pint, I headed back outside to the bike and the lake and for a short while took in the atmosphere: the warm sun, the wind gently blowing in the trees. It was time to head home. I mounted the Kona and cycled out of Chipstead at a leisurely pace, which made all the difference. Back along the Chevening Road, right into Ovenden Road, left on to the Pilgrims Way. I stopped here and there to take photographs of the fields flanking Pilgrims Way, whenever there was a break in the hedgerow, and slowly made my way to the foot of the hill we normally climb out of Westerham. Soon I was passing the Tatsfield Bus Stop and within a few minutes I was sailing through Botley Hill towards Warlingham Green.

The traffic was picking up a bit. I had no idea of the time but it seemed very much like five o'clock or thereabouts as there were plenty of people eager, I'd imagine, to get home from work. Riding along the 269 I was extra vigilant where parked cars were concerned, indicating right every time I veered out into the road and then veering back at the earliest opportunity, but it wasn't too bad and soon I found myself riding through Sanderstead churchyard and then, of course, heading down Church Way.

Chipstead Village, so let's call it Chipstead Lake
From Church Way it's a downhill ride all the way home. I padlocked the bike in the garage and opened the front door of my house around 1730hrs (1733hrs to be precise). All was quiet so here I am letting you all know what I've been doing all afternoon.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Sunday 3 August – to the Tatsfield Churchyard for an amazing Bakewell tart

I was feeling unwell – but not anymore. It was down to past-their-sell-by-date blueberries and resulted in yours truly feeling the need to be in tune with the location of public conveniences while out and about – but only for a day. I felt weary all Friday and by Sunday I had recovered.
A perfect Bakewell tart made by Phil
I don't often frequent public conveniences as they're not very nice places to visit at the best of times. I remember once, in Sutton, Surrey, my hometown, there used to be a public toilet at the top of the Throwley Way – it's probably still there – but the off-putting bit was the attendant who I once spied eating a Sunday roast in his small office INSIDE the public convenience in question. He must have had a fairly good view of his 'customers' doing what comes naturally and I'm guessing he was used to the putrid stench that must have invaded his space (and his dinner table) 24/7. I don't know about you, but I can think of many better places to enjoy roast beef and Yorkshire pudding (or any meal for that matter) – although he'd be in the right place if the beef was a little past its sell-by date.

"Keep away from my tart! " Phil and his Bakewell
at the Tatsfield Churchyard, Sunday 3 August 2014.
But enough of this crap. Suffice it to say that I wasn't feeling on the top of the world although, oddly, I didn't feel ill, which is always a bonus. I felt well enough to get myself acquainted, on Saturday afternoon, with a rather charming public convenience on the beach in Broadstairs, Kent, but I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I was glad there was nobody waiting outside my cubicle when I sheepishly emerged from behind the blue door.

There was no cycling on Saturday morning as it was raining during the early hours so nobody went out, although Phil sent me a text to say he'd changed his mind about aborting the night before and was ready for a ride if anybody was interested. Andy hadn't bothered and my phone was off so I didn't pick up his text until it was too late. Instead, I drove to Broadstairs in Kent for a largely pleasant day of walking along the seafront and taking in the fresh sea air of the East Kent coast. I'd felt under the weather all day on Friday and had spent most of the time lazing around due to my generally weary state of mind.
Another awful pair of shorts, a silly hat and that terrible tee-shirt again. 
Yours truly holding court at the Tatsfield Churchyard early Sunday morning.
We rode out on Sunday morning to the Tatsfield Churchyard and Phil had made a tremendous Bakewell Tart, courtesy of a Jamie Oliver recipe.

When we reached the churchyard the sobering sight of new graves reminded us that life was not only too short but too fragile. Moments later and after the shock that we're not immortal – we knew that anyway, but whenever we're reminded it's always a bit of a shock – we watched as Phil unwrapped the Bakewell tart and were amazed that he'd managed to keep it intact in his rucksack on the eight-mile ride. It was in perfect condition. We were equally amazed when he produced a rather dangerous-looking knife to cut it with and another utensil to ensure it made a clean break from the base of the flan dish in which it was baked.

The proof of the pudding was, as always, in the eating and it goes without saying that it was a fantastic Bakewell tart. We drank tea, chatted about this and that and then headed home again.

The weather was fantastic too, although there was a coolish breeze as we headed out at 0630hrs. The day remained bright and sunny, however, and we were all glad that we rode out on what became the perfect summer's day. I later drove to Rye in East Sussex followed by Camber Sands.

Dumbing down

I was reading yesterday that veteran broadcaster and intellectual Jonathan Miller has described those in charge of commissioning at the BBC as 'media studies twerps'. At last, I thought, somebody speaking out about the growing incompetence and lack of vision that has been slowly developing in the UK and, I'm sure, elsewhere, and its resultant effect on the standard of television and, let's face it, other facets of life too. I don't know about you, but I no longer 'watch' television. Sometimes, in our house, it's on but nobody is watching or, worst still in many ways, somebody is flicking through the channels desperate to find something worthy of their attention but only finding repeats on Dave or American sitcoms.

Jonathan Miller
Blur once claimed that Modern Life is Rubbish and they weren't wrong, but don't get me started on popular music, well, perhaps just one comment...driving home from Camber Sands yesterday evening I found myself listening to Capital Radio. My! How it has declined in quality! I don't even know the name of the female presenter but she had 'Professor Green' and somebody else whose name escaped me, a female 'artiste', in the studio, both of whom were going to perform for the listeners. But that's not what was wrong. What was wrong was that the presenter engaged them in a game of 'snog, marry, avoid' – or whatever it's called, you know the game I'm talking about, the one where you're given the name or names of certain individuals and you have to decide whether they're worth snogging, marrying or simply avoiding like the plague. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to be a spoilsport or anything, but going back to Miller's remarks about the BBC being full of media studies twerps, I found myself thinking: would Peter Townshend of the Who or Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin or Damon Albarn of Blur or Bono from U2, would any of them have been engaged in such a stupid game by John Peel or whoever else was presenting music programmes on the radio 'back in the day'?

Using the phrase 'back in the day' makes me sound like a bit of old git (perhaps I am) but listening to Capital last night made me realise that things have dipped very, very low culturally and the crappy nature of everything was brought into focus last night with the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. God! It was awful! Unprofessional, disjointed, an untidy collection of individuals and some God awful performances by the likes of Lulu, Deacon Blue and Kylie who, I'm told, was miming. In fact, Kylie is regarded as good these days, a musical icon, but it's a real case of the Emperor's New Clothes in my opinion. It amazes me how tongue-in-cheek acclaim soon translates into genuine hero worship. I managed to avoid watching any of the games. I couldn't tell you who won the most medals, I couldn't even tell you the names of athletes who made a name for themselves, which in itself is an amazing achievement as the Games dominated the BBC's channels One, Two and Three.

Why was it so dominant on the UK's 'state television'? Probably because of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence. The royals were out in force and the BBC did a 'Doctor Who' – they had a kind of 'Commonwealth Games Confidential' programme fronted by the sadly ubiquitous Clare Balding and some other bloke – a poor man's John Stapleton – both of whom were charged with the task of 'bigging up' something that what was essentially very boring (just like Doctor Who – click here for more). I'm so glad it's over.

As for Miller's comment about 'media studies twerps' I think it goes some way towards reinforcing the theory that things are dumbing down, being diluted, getting worse and certainly not in anyway improving. The 'golden age' of most things seems to have passed in the UK – we're crap at football (that golden age passed in the sixties on the international stage and the national game is now full of nobheads earning far too much money for what they're really worth); popular music has imploded (just listen to Capital Radio or Kiss FM at virtually any time for proof of this); literature, well, there's too much of it, too much crap, and I'm not well-versed enough in the art world to pass serious comment – although there's always the Turner Prize and the fact that many so-called works of art are known as 'installations'. As for politics, we no longer have politicians that really care about world in which we live. In short, they are 'career politicians' concerned only with themselves and the direction in which their careers are travelling. Even our terrorists are no longer polite enough to warn of an impending attack.

What was good on television recently was Melvyn Bragg's new series on radicals, people like John Ball from the 14th Century and, later this week, Tom Paine. It was good on many levels thanks to Bragg's intelligence (what was John Humprhys doing criticising him recently?) but also because it made me realise that we need some more radical thinkers and revolutionaries in the UK as things are beginning to look very similar to the late 14th Century when we had the famous Peasants' Revolt – my guess is we need another one: right now!