Sunday, 28 September 2014

To Westerham – 22 miles

A few years ago a dust cloud emanating from an Icelandic volcano brought commercial aviation to a standstill in Northern Europe and I distinctly remember our skies being clear of the scars left behind by numerous jet vapour trails. I'm often amazed at the criss-cross pattern of white lines that blight our skies when there's no dust cloud around and this morning was a case in point. As I emerged from the house I looked upwards and it was as if a small child had been let loose with a white marker pen on light blue paper.

Matt and Andy, Westerham, Sunday 28 September 2014
Andy and I met on the green at 0730hrs and headed off with the sun in our eyes. It was a bright sun and there were blue skies as we rode east along the 269 towards Botley. The weather was warmer today than yesterday, but it cooled down considerably as we descended into Westerham – although it's still not time to wear gloves.

When we arrived at our bench on Westerham Green, Andy brought out the Bel Vita biscuits, I made the tea and all was fine with the world. We sat there chatting about nothing in particular. I think the iphone 6 was mentioned in passing and we talked about a ride to Chipstead Lake. In fact, Andy was contemplating – or dare I say yearning – to ride there this morning from Westerham. He was certainly in two minds about pushing ahead and I told him he needn't go back to Pilgrims Way; he simply had to carry on along the road towards Sundridge, via Brasted, and he'd eventually see a sign for Chipstead village on his left, but he decided to ride back with me instead.

Andy rode alone to Chipstead Lake. Pic: Andy Smith.
I know what Andy means about Chipstead Lake. It's a great place and sometimes we all need to go somewhere like it just to chill out a bit. Andy was saying how he never seems to find the time to simply ride somewhere like the lake and not have to worry about what time he gets back. I agreed. We'd both riden to the lake recently but alone; Andy rode there last weekend on his road bike and I was there a few weeks back at the beginning of August, but we've not been there en masse so to speak for a long while. Click here for details of my last ride to the lake.

Both of us were dreading the climb out of Westerham, but in all honesty it was fine and soon we were on the 269 heading back towards Warlingham. We parted at Warlingham Green with Andy saying he wouldn't be riding next Saturday and me saying I wouldn't be out on Sunday, so the likelihood is that our next outing will be the week after next.

Our bikes in Westerham this morning
It's noon now and the sun is bright. There are clear blue skies and you could definitely say that we're experiencing an Indian summer; it is, after all, almost October.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Suburban ride to mum's – 13.5 miles there and back...

The dark starts are getting darker as we approach October when, in roughly a month from now, the clocks will go back one hour and winter will be upon us.

This week I received two aborts: one from Phil yesterday and a late one from Andy this morning, which, of course, immediately made me wonder whether or not I should go. In fact, sitting here now at 0700hrs there is a strong temptation just to remain seated and not go anywhere, but I've got to, for the sake of my own sanity. Not riding is always a bad idea.

Library picture of tea round at mum's.
So I rode to mum's (13.5 miles there and back) through suburban streets and when I got there I met Jon, we had tea and a couple of Kit Kats, not my favourite snack item, but there you go. I had a second cup of tea and then, around 0900hrs I rode home, through the smallholdings and eventually up the steep side of West Hill like last week, arriving home around 0947.

The bike's in need of a service. The gears keep slipping and I can't crank it down to use the lower eight, which made the steep side of West Hill fairly hard work. I say 'fairly hard' but I surprised myself: it really wasn't that bad. The bike needs new handle grips too, a new front tyre wouldn't go amiss either and some new brake shoes on the front would improve things no end. But being constantly on Skid Row means it'll have to wait. I remember once riding the bike without any brakes, back in 2011. Somehow I worked out a way of stopping it. But it's not that bad yet. The rear brake is so powerful it doesn't matter that I don't have a decent front brake. The last time it was the other way around, the rear brake was non-existent and I relied on a poor front brake. Not good, but I survived.

Tomorrow we're heading for Westerham. Not sure if Phil will be there or not, but Andy's up for it. He wanted to head for the lake, but I'm not sure I'll have the time, unless we head off ultra early.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Solo ride to the Tatsfield bus stop – 14.5 miles.

It must have rained during the night as there were puddles dotted along the 269 this morning as I made my way towards Botley Hill. Puddles aside, the weather was fantastic: blue skies and cottonwool clouds, although there was a cool breeze.

Yours truly, Tatsfield bus stop, Sunday 21 Sept 2014
The original plan was to ride to Botley Hill and back, but as I approached the pub, I realised that I might as well push on a little further so I headed for the Tatsfield bus stop.

I was passed by a few Lycra monkeys on the way, but generally speaking it was an uneventful kind of ride – not that Lycra monkeys make a ride 'eventful'. I suppose it was because a solo ride, by definition, means no company, no conversation. I was left alone with my thoughts.

When I reached the bus stop I loitered for a short while, took the selfie accompanying this post then, with no tea or biscuits to eat (oh, the pain and loneliness of solitary riding!) I headed back and by the time I reached home I had burned off 363 calories over a distance of 14.5 miles (that's from my house to the Tatsfield bus stop and back, the fast way).

Like yesterday I was on the bike for 90 minutes in total. Yesterday I rode roughly one mile less than today and burned 356 calories. My average speed was 10mph, but again, I was in no hurry. Yesterday's average speed was even slower – just 9mph. In fact, comparing the two rides, I preferred yesterday's for the simple reason that the route was circular and I had some company, although I didn't have company on the ride, just when I reached my destination – mum's house. By 'circular' I mean that none of the return journey involved repeating any of the outward journey (apart from riding down Rossdale and into Shorts Road). From Alma Road onwards it was a completely different route, which appeared on my cycling app (Map My Ride) as a circle.

Today's ride was a simple straight line as the route back was the reverse of the route out. Having said that, the 'better' ride is to Tatsfield bus stop. Why? Because it's more rural, more desolate and there's a great covered bus stop at the half way point. The urban ride to mum's is just that: urban. Infact, it's suburban! Having said that, I would rather have breakfast at mum's than sit alone at the bus stop. But then again, when the guys are at the bus stop with me and we have tea and biscuits or tea and cake (or both) the bus stop is very appealing, especially in the sunshine. Hell, I can't make up my mind. Does one have to be better than the other? Of course not, they're both good in their own way.

How sad am I?
So what else? Well, I know this sounds really sad – and I am, of course, a very, very sad person – but I love buying something new and yesterday that something was a new kettle. Our old one was leaking so we nipped down to the Currys on the Purley Way and bought a new one – the same brand (Philips). Ridiculous, I know, but I even enjoyed the shopping trip as we later strolled around John Lewis and Next Home – not that we can afford to buy anything at the moment.
Our new Philips kettle from Currys.

This morning we drove to Slindon, a fantastic village close to Pulborough on the southern side of the South Downs. Wonderful place – especially the beef pasty at The Old Forge café. If you haven't been, I suggest you go, it's a great place – but I'd imagine very drab on a cold and rainy day as the only village pub was closed and turned into flats about 10 years ago.

It's been a great day weatherwise: blue skies and light cloud and now, at 1727hrs the sun is shimmering behind some clouds. The trees are virtually still as there's so little wind and, as I write this, I can hear the engine of a light aircraft purring away somewhere in the distance. Perfect.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Suburban ride to mum's – 13.5 miles

At 0641hrs it's grey and misty outside, but it's dry too, which is good news. It's also very still as I sit here in the conservatory, the halogen glow from the computer screen illuminating a small space around the desk. Outside, the birds are tweeting. How they manage to get to grips with computers I'll never know.

Today the plan is an urban ride to mum's as nobody else is going cycling this weekend and it's a good opportunity to see Bon and mum and enjoy one of mum's cosy breakfasts. Both Phil and Andy are otherwise engaged, leaving me to my own devices. An urban ride to mum's means no need to pack a huge thermos flask of water plus milk and teabags. My load will be lightened in other words. I'll leave on the hour, so about 15 minutes more of sitting here writing.

Yesterday it was announced that Scotland has voted no to independence, paving the way for the resignation of Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond and enabling the British establishment to breathe a sigh of relief. Oddly, 45 per cent of Scots voted to break away from the UK with Glasgow and Dundee standing out as the most pro-independence regions of Scotland. I was expecting trouble on the streets – and there has been unrest in Glasgow – but I'm glad that the UK hasn't been broken up. I'm not a fan of nationalism of any sort. In my opinion nationalism is up there with religion as one of the major causes of unrest in the world. There's nothing worse than tribalism and that's what nationalism breeds – cue Scotsman with painted faces pretending to be Mel Gibson.
Halfway through breakfast at mum's this morning.

The French have been dropping bombs on ISIS positions in the Middle East and it seems to have gone quiet on the Ukraine front other than the country's president meeting Obama to ask for military assistance should his country be invaded by the Russians. Here in the UK a girl named Alice has gone missing and while nobody has dared mention that she might have been murdered, they've discovered that a Latvian convicted murderer might be involved as he passed the very spot where Alice was spotted on CCTV just 15 minutes after her, riding a mountain bike. The bike has been recovered by the police, but neither Alice nor the Latvian have been seen in three weeks. All very suspicious if you ask me, but one thing bugging most people, including yours truly, is why we have allowed a convicted Latvian murderer into the country.

Riding west towards Sutton
I left the house around 0710hrs, headed west along Barnfield Road, north along West Hill, and then west through Essenden Road. I turned right on to Carlton Road and rode towards Croydon following the Selsdon Road to the A23 Brighton Road, past Cycle King and up Warham Road. I rode through the council estate via Denning Avenue and on towards Five Ways (aka the Purley Way). Traffic was picking up as I rode along Stafford Road into Wallington heading for Boundary Road where I hung a right at the mini roundabout and then later turned left into Grosvenor Road. After making a right turn into Park Road, I skirted around the park and headed for Benyon Road where Jon called and I had to call him back to say I was approaching the lights at the Windsor Castle – no more than five minutes from mum's place.

When I got there, breakfast was almost ready: boiled egg and fingers; cereal; and soft bread rolls washed down with a cup of tea and followed by some fresh orange segments. We chatted about this and that – family stuff mainly – and then watched (on my iphone) a brief excerpt from an old children's programme from our childhood. The Singing Ringing Tree was released in 1957 (although we didn't start watching it until the mid-to-late 60s. It still holds a certain magic for us (it's also a little weird, but that was always its appeal). If you want to watch a bit of it, key 'Singing Ringing Tree' into Google or, better still, YouTube.

Yours truly and Jon ready to ride home from mum's
After bidding farewell to mum, Jon and I headed down Rossdale together, but went our separate ways at the bottom: Jon turned left on to the Westmead Road and rode towards Sutton. I headed right into Westmead Corner, turned right again into Shorts Road and then right again into Alma Road. At the T-junction with the Carshalton Road I turned left, rode past the BP Garage and turned right into Oxford Road. I was riding towards Carshalton Beeches High Street which morphs into Banstead Road and then Banstead Road South further up, turning left into Staplehurst and right on to Park Hill. From here onwards it gets a bit more rural with the Oaks Park on the right and a couple of smallholdings and fields on the left. After about a mile I turned right on to the Croydon Road and basically kept on going straight into Purley before winding my way along suburban back streets towards the Purley Downs Road, where, after a short climb, I turned left into Norman Road, past Purley Oaks railway station and then on to the lower end of the B269 – yes, the road to Botley Hill. After a couple of hundred yards I turned left into West Hill, the southerly end, which is very steep, but I managed it despite only having eight gears at my disposal (I couldn't change down for some reason). Lastly, I hung a right into Barnfield Road and was home by just gone 0930hrs.

I managed to burn 356 calories over 21.75km. In total I was on the saddle for roughly 90 minutes and my average speed was 14.7km per hour (roughly 9 miles per hour) but I wasn't pushing it. It was good to just mosey along at my own pace.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Wind chime weather

A few posts back I suggested that summer had left the building. It hadn't. We've been blessed with what can only be described at this time of year as an Indian summer. There is no need yet to wear gloves while riding the bike. No need for more than one layer of clothing. Riding downhill is met with nothing but a warm breeze and the threat of rain and wind is non-existent. No doubt things will change, but right now there's nothing to complain about.

Waiting for Andy near Botley Hill, Sunday 0805hrs.
In the back garden I have a wind chime and it is now that it plays it's cheerful tune, accompanied by the rustling leaves of nearby trees. Sitting outside on Sunday afternoon having mowed the lawns, chopped back the golden rod and planted a few bulbs, I enjoyed a cup of tea in the relative solitude of the time and place. Not for me the crisis in the Middle East or the knife edge boredom of the Scottish referendum. I was, I suppose, busily doing nothing for a brief moment in time.

I had risen early with a view to a solitary ride. Andy was out of circulation and while Phil had said he would be there for a ride on Sunday, he wasn't outside when I emerged from the house around 0700hrs. Later I received a text. Phil had overslept, but he's been cleared by the NoVisible Lyca committee. Our rules are simple: you either ride or you don't; nobody's going to reprimand you if you decide to 'abort', although you should abort. Having said that, I kind of knew that Phil wouldn't be riding as he'd have been there waiting for me by the time I hit the air. At 0710hrs I pedalled off, unsure where to go on my own.

Mum's place was high on the agenda. An urban ride through Wallington and Carshalton seemed like a good idea, but somehow it seemed more of an effort than a rural ride to Botley or the Tatsfield Bus Stop, so I headed off on my usual route: Ellenbridge, Southcote, Elmfield, Morley, Church Way, Limpsfield Road, Botley Hill and then either the bus stop or the churchyard.

At Tatsfield Churchyard – clearly running out of ideas.
As I approached Warlingham Sainsbury's I received a text from Andy asking if I was out on the bike. I was, I said, and told him my location. He suggested meeting at the roundabout beyond Botley and from there we rode to the Tatsfield Churchyard for tea and biscuits and a chat about people who use only the subject box of an email to convey their message. It's a bit like writing a short note on an envelope, underneath the address and then putting a sheet of blank paper inside the envelope. Not cricket, in other words. Enough said. Later Andy sent me an email with the entire message in the subject box.

I didn't ride on Saturday as I had things to do around the house and while I was fully expecting a solitary ride on Sunday, it was good to have Andy on board. Riding alone is fine, but having a 'riding buddy' is far preferable. Next week I'll need all the motivation I can get as both Andy and Phil won't be going. An urban ride to mum's is likely on one of the days, but I might just muster up the enthusiasm to ride alone to Westerham, who knows?

My bike (and crash helmet) near Botley Hill on Sunday.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

In Luxembourg...and letting the trains take the strain

I set off on Wednesday morning by car (I was the passenger). We were headed for Folkestone where we picked up a train – the Euro Shuttle – that took us across the English Channel. The journey took approximately 35 minutes. We simply sat in the car and when the train emerged in Calais we drove off and followed the road signs to Rheinberg, a small town not a million miles from Duisburg from where I would later catch the first of three trains to Luxembourg.

Exactly how Luxembourg is spelt is anybody's guess: is it 'Luxemburg' or is it 'Luxembourg'? Or, indeed, is it Luxemborg? It's a mystery, and while I initially made a decision to go for the former, I saw the word 'Luxembourg' on Luxembourg station so that is how Luxembourg is spelt. It has to be. If the station gets it wrong there's no hope for any of us. So, for those not completely clear, it's 'Luxembourg'.

This is the first time I've been to Luxembourg and sadly I'm not going to get much time to look around. Up until today, my only connection with Luxembourg has been Radio Luxembourg when I used to lie in bed as an early teen listening to the Emperor Rosco on my crackly old transistor radio.

The Orsoyer Hof hotel near Rheinberg
Last night was spent in the Orsoyer Hof hotel in what I can only describe as a small hamlet on the outskirts of Rheinberg. It was what I would call a 'blast from the past'. Very mid-to-late seventies, the Orsoyer Hof's restaurant bore a strong resemblance to the old UK steak houses and the past was reinforced by the music on the sound system – Procol Harum and Hot Chocolate. I chose beef stroganoff as it was the only thing I could recognise on the menu, but the portion size was such that I couldn't finish it all. Rare for me, I know, but it was just too much.

The hotel room was sort of okay, although I'm not a great fan of rooms that open directly on to the outside world as those in the Orsoyer Hof did. The rooms were below street level and accessed by a single flight of stairs.  In all honesty it was a bit dingy all round. The breakfast was piss poor – rolls and processed cheese, no tea, no cereal – and overall it wasn't really my scene. Having said that, bed and breakfast was only 47 Euros so there was little room for complaint, although I wouldn't return.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch in Restaurant Caruso in Rheinberg, the only restaurant I've ever visited that doesn't have a menu (the chef/proprietor simply comes over and asks you what you want). We chose sole and pannacota, not forgetting a decent bottle of wine. Unbelievably good. The sole was filleted in front of us and was as tender as you like and accompanied with some al dente pasta and a rather delicious tomato and garlic dressing.

View from the train to Trier Hbf
After lunch I was driven to Duisburg where I hopped aboard the 1612hrs train to Koblenz. There was a 20-minute wait for the 1822hrs from Koblenz to Trier Hbf and then a short walk across the platform at Trier Hbf to catch the 1952hrs to Luxembourg.  The second part of the train journey from Koblenz to Trier HBF was wonderful as the train hugged the northern banks of the Mosul – some great scenery as the train passed through Tries Karden, Cochem and Bullay where quaint houses nestled on green hillsides leading down to the water's edge. The train arrived in Luxembourg after dark at 2045hrs and I crossed the road to my hotel, the Best Western International, which was across the road from the railway station – the most conveniently located hotel I've ever had the good fortune to check in to.

The hotel was fantastic from the word go and there was good news from the moment I checked in: a complimentary glass of wine, 10% off my meal and free WiFi. Perfect! Room 304 was good too: an LG ('Life's Good') flatscreen television (Pistorius not guilty of murder, said CNN, but he could be guilty of culpable homicide*), a decent double bed and a gleaming bathroom, unlike last night's gloomy looking shower room in Rheinberg.

When I reached the restaurant it was full of Japanese people and I feared that I was invisible to the waitresses, but I was wrong and soon I had my free glass of red wine. I ordered roasted salmon with potatoes and carrots – good old 'hospital food' – and ordered a second glass of wine and some sparkling mineral water before signing the check and heading back to the room. It was 2200hrs and I was considering a walk, but in all honesty I needed to relax, and, besides, it was dark so what could I possibly see other than closed shops and shadowy people making their way here and there, to and fro.

Room 304, International Hotel, Luxembourg
If I'm up early enough I'll have time to take a stroll around Luxembourg, but after the meeting there will be just one hour before I catch my train back to Brussels Midi and then my second train to London St Pancras International.

It's been a rushed trip in many ways. I've got a meeting tomorrow at 1100hrs and I've got to be on the 1324hrs train to Brussels Midi in order to catch the Eurostar to London.

I'll take a stroll tomorrow morning, albeit briefly, and I'll see if I can find some 'Boris Bikes' but I doubt I'll have time to ride anywhere as another day of train travel beckons. You're probably wondering why I didn't fly back home. Well, the price was roughly the same, but flying means a taxi to the airport, it means hanging around beyond passport control for an hour or so spending money on food and drink in the process, so I figured it would be cheaper and more relaxed to simply jump on a train and the fact that my hotel is right across the road from the railway station makes the train the best option.

The view from room 304...
I've got about an hour to explore Luxembourg so I better make the most of it.  This is one of the most rushed trips, as I've probably said before.

I had a pleasant breakfast this morning consisting of cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit and a cup of English breakfast tea and now, here I am, putting the finishing touches to this post. Outside the sun in shining and I'm about to go out for a walk prior to a meeting and then, after the meeting I'll head over to the railway station, which is visible from where I am sitting now, and catch the 1324hrs train to Brussels Midi and then I'll find the Eurostar to London. I've probably said all of this before, but I don't want my blog to look too untidy, hence the extra words.

Back in the UK...
I'm now back in the UK, meeting over. Before I embarked upon my journey home, however, I had lunch in the Alfa brasserie across from Luxembourg station – not brilliant, it has to be said, apart from the Leffe Brune and the bread rolls. I took the train from Luxembourg to Brussels Midi and it took an age. The most frustrating part of the journey – actually, the only frustrating part of the journey – was when we approached Brussels and I discovered that there were loads of Brussels stations: Brussels-Luxembourg; Brussels Schuman; Brussels Zuid; Brussels Nord; Brussels Central; and, of course, Brussels Midi.
Yes, Luxembourg has Boris Bikes...

I had an hour to kill on Midi station and wandered aimlessly around looking in shop windows and getting generally bored. I didn't want to spend money in a café or drink a beer in a bar so I window-shopped and never bought anything (that is, after all, what window shopping is all about). But then, fed up to the back teeth with Brussels Midi railway station, I decided to go through the motions of international travel: putting suitcase on conveyor, ensuring lap top is in a basket of its own before sending it through, then putting laptop back in suitcase and, of course, I almost forgot, showing my passport twice to French and then British passport control. The only bit of good news was that I managed to transfer from the later train (the 1856hrs) to the earlier train (the 1756hrs) and got home earlier than expected.

Oh, and talking about the spelling of Luxembourg (as we were earlier on in this post) I have photographic evidence that Luxembourg is spelt 'Luxembourg' and here it is. If you're going to get the spelling of a place name correct, the solution is very simple: go to the railway station.

* Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide (manslaughter) and is awaiting sentencing.

Proof the Luxembourg is spelt 'Luxembourg'

Sunday, 7 September 2014

More ramblings...and another ride to Westerham (total weekend distance: 44 miles)

Outside all is still and a little overcast and grey, just like yesterday morning. I'm in my usual place: the conservatory. It's 0643 hrs, cereal has been eaten, I've enjoyed a cup of tea and an Oat So Simple Fruit Muesli bar and now I'm getting ready for the ride. Andy and I had discussed riding to Westerham. Phil's not going. My phone is on charge as Andy might abort or Phil might reinstate himself on the ride.

It's been a busy weekend, which, this week, as last, has involved a trip to the municipal rubbish dump on the Brighton Road. I hate 'going to the dump' but over the last couple of weekends it's been a regular haunt as I've been up in the loft getting rid of stuff no longer needed: bits of old cardboard, dusty rucksacks, a green inflatable crocodile we bought in Calabria in 2007, you name it. This weekend it was the turn of an old portable television that works perfectly well but isn't digital. It's now sitting quietly in a container at the dump with a handful of discarded televisions and you can just imagine what they're saying to one another.

"Hey, man, what you in here for?"
"Same as you, brother, nobody needs me any more."
"Nobody needs you? Somebody must want you."
"Yeah? Well, it's not looking good, is it? I'm here, with you guys, waiting for God knows what."
"Well, I can tell you what's gonna happen, Bro. They're gonna kick your sorry arse, motherfucker."
"But I've got a lot of life left me in. I can be used for computer games."
"Computer games? I don't see no flatscreen, high definition, man; I just see an old-style telly."
"Old-style? You kiddin' me, man? I'm in good nick, I've been chillin' man, in the loft."
"The loft? You mean nobody wants you?"
"I guess that's what I mean? What's for dinner?"
"Hey, man. Has nobody told you? TVs aren't human, they can't eat. Get over it."

Matt and Andy, Westerham, Sunday 7th September. Pic: Andy Smith.
My second job was a trip to the local charity shop (Mind) to offload old clothes, a cycle rack, a pork pie hat and an old basket and then a trip to Waitrose to buy lunch. The sun was shining and other jobs were being threatened: cleaning the car was one and putting some new stuff in the loft was another and there was still the weekly shop to do.

What amazes me about food shopping is the price. I hate that moment when I'm standing at the check-out watching the green LED display on the till move upwards, like a taxi meter, and the smug way the check-out assistant announces, "That'll be £1,750,000. Have you got a Nectar card?" Alright, Nectar cards are from Sainsbury's. I was in both – Sainsbury's for dry goods and Waitrose for better quality meat, fruit and vegetables. The latter is our regular haunt, but it's so expensive it hurts. Although I like the fact that having a Waitrose card means I get a free newspaper. This week's Guardian was good, especially the magazine. I love reading Tim Dowling's column and this week's Experience was a man who lives in his car: first a VW Passat and now a similarly designed Audi.

I know this sounds stupid, but I'm interested in stuff like that: living rough in the woods and renting the house out (something I'll never, ever do, but thinking about it is quite fun). So the idea of sleeping in the car, ie making it my home, is also appealing, although not my Toyota Corolla, it's too small to live in. In fact, what intrigued about the guy living in his Passat (and now his Audi) was the fact that he didn't consider buying a small motor home, at least that way he'd get a kitchen table and a proper bed.

Think of the freedom! He can park up anywhere he likes; he could park in the office car park during the week and at the weekends he could find a nice spot in the woods or at a campsite or down by the sea, it's a brilliant idea – and if I was doing it I could rent out my house and make a bit of money on the side, in fact, it might even negate the need to work as I could lead a nomadic lifestyle and have it all paid for by a sitting tenant. Except that I have responsibilities to consider so it's completely out of the question. While it's totally impractical, however, I found myself secretly yearning to be that man. I even revised my fantasy about having a bestselling novel: prior to the beach house I'd live a like a gypsy, puttering around in small towns and enjoying being 'of no fixed address'. For more thoughts on this subject, click here.

The ride was virtually a carbon copy of yesterday morning, minus Phil. We were slightly faster, reaching Westerham at just gone 0800hrs, and sat at our usual table behind the statue of General Wolfe. Biscuits and tea appeared, we chatted about this and that – Andy saw our pal David last night (he was DJing at an amateur boxing event in Wallington Public Hall) – and then, after taking the obligatory photo (the shot for yesterday's post was a 'library photo' – in other words, a shot from the archive) we reluctantly hopped on the bikes and headed home. I say 'reluctantly' because there's nothing worse than the moment when, after relaxing with tea and biscuits, we get on the bikes and mentally prepare ourselves for the climb towards Botley Hill. We hate it if the truth be known and would rather simply laze around all day in Westerham than endure the pain of the hill. Alright, it's not that bad, but after chilling with a biscuit and a mug of tea, the last thing we want is to exert ourselves.

As we climbed the hill, a fog drifted in, although it was very misty below us earlier on as we rode along Clarks Lane and down the hill into Westerham.

Yesterday, I feared that the Tatsfield Bus Stop was up for sale and would soon be out of bounds as there was a Howard Cundey 'for sale' sign in front of it. It turns out that Howard Cundey is sponsoring the Tatsfield Beer Festival. As we sailed past the bus stop on Saturday there were a couple of Lycra monkeys relaxing there – the bare-faced cheek of it! What the hell were they doing sitting at our bus stop without asking permission? But we were Westerham-bound so it didn't really matter.

I reached home around 0945hrs and now, at 1425hrs the sun is shining and I'm considering cleaning the car.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Early morning ramblings...and then Westerham

Summer has left the building. Now I know that it's still fairly good weather out there – quite warm, not much wind or rain (in fact, hardly any) but sitting here now, in the conservatory at just gone 0630hrs, and it's fairly dark out there; and let's not forget that it's September – three months and a bit away from Christmas Day.
The statue of Sir Winston on Westerham's green. Archive pic.
If I had to choose between winter and summer, I'd take the latter any day. Cycling out on a cold, wintry day is no fun, especially if there's a cold breeze or, dare I say it, rain. I much prefer tee-shirt weather, being able to sit on the grass under a warm sun, although winter does have its appeal. There's something rather cosy about sitting in the conservatory in the dim light of morning, mug of tea and a bowl of Shredded Wheat.

It's very still out there at the moment. No wind. Just the hum of the computer and the birds tweeting. And now that we've moved the departure time to 0730hrs from the green it's great to just sit around, like now, writing a few words for the blog and acclimatising myself to the fact that I'm awake and ready for the ride.

I've received no texts from anybody saying they can't make it and if, like last week, we get a move-on, we should be able to reach the green by 0800hrs.

Hey, what is it about Cameron Diaz that I don't find attractive? Even when she's got next to nothing on – as in the poster for her latest movie Sex Tape – there's something about her that does nothing for me, but then I've never been a fan of dizzy blondes, perhaps that's it. I only bring her up because the aforementioned promotional image of her and her co-star in her latest movie has just appeared on my Yahoo! mail log-in page and I'm thinking: no, definitely not; I'd rather read a good book and sip tea.

Right, that's that out of the way. What else? You can tell I'm rambling, simply because I have the time. There's 10 minutes before I have to rush off and ride towards Warlingham Green and it's nice just to sit here writing about nothing. Mind you, I've got to find my trainers, chuck everything into the the rucksack and hope that Phil is outside waiting, so there's a lot to do and, as you can tell, the tranquility of a few moments ago is slowly ebbing away as the reality of hitting the road draws nearer.

I'm making it sound as if I don't like riding the old Kona. I do, honestly, but one of the problems with the later start is making myself a little too cosy in front of the computer and 'chatting' like this to nobody in particular, ie the miniscule audience that makes up my readers. I get roughly 50 hits a day, mainly from the USA and the UK but also from Australia and pockets of Europe and occasionally a comment from somebody I don't know.

Blogging is weird, but I'm addicted to it; if I didn't have to go out in a few minutes, I'd happily ramble on all day like this; God knows what I'd talk about, probably politics and world affairs, the usual stuff, I'd crack a few silly jokes, but, by and large, it would be a load of old rubbish. like the thoughts I have when I'm walking along the street: so much enters my mind as I wander around the suburban streets of South London and I flit from one thing to another, it's a bit like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty when he has to deal with the world's prayers. One minute I'm fantasising about what I'd do if I won a load of money (I'd buy a house on the beach and spend most of my time staring out to sea) or I'm thinking about what I've got to do at work or I'd fantasise about my silly novel, the one I wrote for my daughter just for laughs, becoming an international bestseller...and that one leads to me buying a house on the beach and staring out to sea.

To Westerham again (22 miles)
Since that last sentence, the one about writing a bestselling novel and buying a house by the sea with the money, three hours have passed and I've been out on a ride to Westerham (22 miles). Phil and I met Andy at Warlingham Green and then we got our heads down and powered along the Limpsfield Road towards Westerham, taking the usual route. We were pretty fast, there was no talking (well, hardly any) and when we reached Westerham (at 0805) we brought out the biscuits and the tea and started to chat, first about the Rolls Royce parked up near to us (I don't like them, they're too 'local businessman made good' for my liking, and they're so dated). Phil likes their elegance and Andy didn't really pass comment, although I don't think a Roller is Andy's cup of tea either.

Phil and Andy haven't seen each other since Andy rode the 100-mile Ride London event so we chatted a bit about that and both Phil and I decided that it wasn't for us, although we'd happily consider, say, London-Brighton or London-Cambridge next year (50 and 60 miles respectively). Andy, incidentally, has signed up for next year's Ride London event.

Today's weather was perfect for riding. It was warm, a little overcast, but there was little in the way of wind. On the ride back we rode steadily towards the foot of the hill and didn't seem to have any problem reaching the top, which is long haul, all the way to the Botley Hill Farmhouse. I've noticed that my level of fitness has improved since losing the weight: I'm riding faster than before and I'm not so worn out on my return. I discovered today that I can wear trousers with a 32in waist again and my collar size has decreased from 16in back to 15.5in. This is all good news.