Monday, 27 October 2014

As the clocks go back...

If time is a winged chariot soaring through outer space, then I was ahead of it on Sunday morning. Despite the fact that, for most people, the clocks going back mean an extra hour in bed, it wasn't to be for me as I woke up ahead of the game. The clock glowing brightly on my bedside table was living in the future and the only reliable piece of time-telling equipment was my iphone, which was downstairs on the console table awaiting its chance to shout out that it was six o'clock and time to get up. But I was way ahead of the game. I turned and looked at the bedside clock and it was something like four o'clock in the morning, which meant it was really an hour earlier, although downstairs in iphone land all was well. I had hoped that I might wake up nearer to 'six am' only to remember that it was really only five am, but no. It was annoying because once awake, it's impossible to get back to sleep. Or rather it's not impossible, I just tend to nod back off about a minute before it's time to get up. And sure enough, the iphone, like that monkey in Toy Story 3, starting making a noise downstairs.

"There's a job for you in the fire escape trade! Come up to town!"

"What's that?"
"Don't worry, it's the iphone. Time to go for a ride."
"What time is it?"
"Well, it's really six o'clock, but it's also seven o'clock."
"What's the real time?"
"But it's really seven."
"No, it's six, but yesterday, at this very moment, it was seven o'clock."
"The clocks have gone back."

Why is it that when the clocks go back everyone gets up to 'experience' the thrill of being up at a time when, only 24 hours earlier, it was an hour later than the present? Outside nothing looked any different,   except it was a little darker. It doesn't make any sense but, suddenly, downstairs was blessed with three people rather than just me pottering around silently in the kitchen. The silence was disturbed by Desperate Housewives and I eventually headed for the garage around ten past seven o'clock.

The gears were still playing up, but what was I expecting? That they would cure themselves? That the bike would somehow 'get better'? A trip to the bike shop still beckons in other words.

I sent Andy a text. "Running 10 minutes late" and then made my way towards the green. It was a pleasant day. Not too cold, but dark and grey and looking like rain, although, fortunately, we were spared a soaking.

I should have riden out yesterday, but I had to drive over to Balham (in South London) early in the morning, which was mildly annoying – not that Andy went out and with Phil away on holiday it was only me. Still, it gave me a chance to listen to Radio Four in the car, which was good and for some reason I hadn't put two and two together where the broadcaster and journalist Jay Rayner was concerned: he's Claire Rayner's son. I remember meeting his father, who was a really good artist, but I can't remember the circumstances behind the meeting. I might also have met Claire Rayner too, but I can't remember.

The lake was on the agenda, but...
The plan was to head for the lake and had I not left later and had there not been things to do I would have gone there. It's odd how all three of us – Andy, Phil and myself – have all been to the lake alone but not as a 'team', not since May 2013 (if my memory serves me correctly) when Phil and I rode there. Instead we rode to Westerham and as we roared along the 269 ('puttered' would be a more apt description) a vintage Ferrari was coming the other way. It was green. Rare, says Andy, but I don't give a stuff about cars. They are, for me, and much to Andy's horror, purely a means of getting from A to B. "After a few rides it would be just a dashboard and a windscreen, like any other car, the wipers going back and forth in the rain," I said, dismissively, and Andy threatened to turn around a cycle home.

We rode to Botley and on the B2024 (Clarks Lane) heading for Westerham. It was typical NoVisibleLycra weather – dark skies, the threat of rain, but it was relatively warm. Perfect cycling conditions, we both agreed as we rode into the town centre.

As we sat and drank tea, we also munched biscuits and discussed the case for not making a living out of photography. Well, not so much dismissing it entirely but agreeing that, these days, thanks to digital technology, most people think they're professional photographers and this kind of limits the market for those who take photographs for a living. In editorial circles, the digital revolution means that journalists now double as photographers (and the quality dips considerably as a result), leaving advertising as the only real outlet for the professional photographer. I'm not a photographer, but I know one of the very best, Robert Wilkinson; Andy, on the other hand, would love to make a career out of what is now a hobby. And who can blame him? But, as we both said, it's a tough nut to crack, especially if you're just starting out.

Mounting the bikes we headed out of Westerham and prepared ourselves for Westerham Hill and that long climb towards the Botley Hill Farmhouse. We've run out of ideas on the photography front (hence the shot above of a fire escape in northern England) and decided that new destinations were needed to make our blog images less predictable (shots of the bikes, shots of Churchill's or General Wolfe's statue, shots of us sitting at the bench drinking tea – all very predictable). We discussed the lake, but then realised we'd exhausted it in photography terms and besides, it's just that little bit too far for a Saturday or Sunday morning. That said, we haven't been to Hunger's End for a while or Redhill (and there's plenty of photographic opportunities in Redhill, I can tell you!

The irony of it all!
To take our minds off the hill, we discussed irony. A good example of something that is ironic is Nigel Farage being an MEP,  a Member of the European Parliament. Why? Because Nigel Farage is anti-Europe and wants the UK to come out of Europe – he's causing the Tories a lot of problems at the moment on matters concerning immigration. It's ironic, therefore, that he is an MEP and also quite ridiculous when you consider that if Nigel Farage's UKIP achieves its ultimate objective, Mr Farage will be out of a job!

We then set about distinguishing irony from 'contradictory' and from 'hypocrisy' and it all got a little heavy as we heaved our way up the hill, passing the steps leading to the Tatsfield Churchyard and pressing on past the Tatsfield Bus Stop to the Botley Hill roundabout. Was it hypocritcal of Nigel Farage to be an MEP? Or was there some kind of contradiction involved? Was it a paradox or purely ridiculous? We never really came to any conclusion, but it helped pass the time as we climbed the hill and soon we were riding along the 269 heading North. It was a clear day and from across vast expanses of fields and suburbia, in the distance, but clearly visible, we could see the entire panorama of Central London stretching from West to East and embracing the City of London and Docklands.

Andy left half way along the 269, heading for Wapses Roundabout and another climb, this time into Caterham on the Hill. I carried on towards Warlingham Green, but stopped off briefly to answer the call of nature near the pond at the top of Slines Oak Road. There's a new bike shop opened opposite Warlingham Sainsbury's, selling top-end mountain bikes with obscure brand names I've never heard of before; something tells me this is real pro's shop.

I reached home at just past 10 o'clock and got on with the rest of my Sunday – a pleasant trip to Forest Row for tea and cake and then a browse around what we call 'The Elephant Shop' at Sheffield Park, 10 miles north of Lewes.

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