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! 

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