Sunday, 14 December 2014

Jon buys a new bike and Andy and I head for the Tudor Rose in Westerham

Saturday 13th December 2014: Here's a lesson for us all – or certainly a lesson for yours truly. If the bottom bracket on your bike goes, get it fixed. Why? Because if you leave it, like I have done, there's a strong chance that when it goes for good, you won't so much be visiting the repair shop just to get it fixed. You'll be buying a new bike instead!

How do I know this? During the week – Wednesday 10 December to be precise (it was my birthday) – I had a call from Jon (or rather I called him, I can't remember) and he was in a bike shop doing just that: buying a new bike. Apparently the cost of re-threading the frame of his Kona Fire Mountain would have cost so much money that he might as well buy a new bike. So he did. A Cannondale Trail.

I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure we'll get acquainted on my next urban ride to mum's.

And yes, it was my birthday on Wednesday. I won't bore you with how old I've become. Instead I'll inform you that, since Wednesday, I've been eating a fair few chocolates and biscuits during the day and it's bugging me a bit. I say 'a fair few', I guess I had half a dozen chocolates and a similar amount of biscuits and ever since I've been fretting about putting on weight again, although I don't think I have. Not yet at any rate. I keep dipping my head in front of the mirror in the bathroom – 'recompense, for all my crimes of self-defence' – to see if there's an easy double-chin to be made. I think I'm in the clear and besides, I'm off now until the new year, which means I can get back to my three meals a day regime of breakfast, lunch and dinner and hold the bread and biscuits.

During the week and due to bread being frozen in the freezer I've paid a couple of visits to the Marks & Spencer café in Redhill for tomato and basil soup with an extra roll. The 'extra roll' means that instead of getting two miniscule rolls, you get four, with portion packs of butter aplenty – four rolls add up to two 'normal' sized rolls in my mind. Very nice. I read somewhere (or watched on television some time in the distant past) that a bowl of soup was better for you than, say, a sandwich, if you're looking to lose a bit of weight. Well, I paid two visits to the caff this week so I'm assuming it did me some good. The M&S caff has become my latest lunchtime venue where Jezza, my pal, and I discuss The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, which Jezza has read something like 12 times.

Yesterday morning (Saturday) – it's now 0630hrs on Sunday 14 December as I write this now – we rode to Westerham. The weather was, shall we say, 'a bit chilly', but not as chilly as it is out there now. Out there now it's cold, frosty and icy, the cars look as if they've been in a huge freezer overnight and, well, it prompted me to text Andy, angling, if I'm honest for a mutual 'abort'. But Andy breezed back with something like 'we've seen it all before' and announced that he'd be going out. I texted back saying I'd don the balaclava and that I'd see him on the green at the usual time. Sometimes I need a push. Not often, but sometimes.

Breakfast at the Tudor Rose café, Westerham, on Saturday
Anyway, yesterday we rode to Westerham and while it was not as cold as it looks out there this morning, it was face-achingly bad as we started our descent into Westerham. So cold that I slowed down to reduce the cold blast of air on my aching face and then, as the road levelled out just prior to going under the M25, I figured that 'no hands' might help, enabling me to swing my arms about a bit in order to keep warm (or warmer than I was). It seemed to do the trick. Soon we found ourselves in Westerham where I was due to buy some milk for our tea, but Andy announced a small windfall on the premium bonds so it was breakfast on him in the Tudor Rose Café. This was most welcomed and appreciated and we both enjoyed a large pot of tea and a sausage sandwich with HP Sauce and found ourselves chatting about Carl Foggarty and Barry Sheene and Russell Brand's performance on the BBC's Question Time.

I'm not sure where I stand on Brand. I think he's quite a funny bloke in a strange sort of way, but his newly found 'political awareness' is a little bit A level politics. The sort of stuff he talks about can be found in plenty of other books like, for instance, Chavs by Owen Jones (highly recommended); Stupid White Men by Michael Moore and, best of all, Robert Tressell's aforementioned The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (by far the best of the bunch). What is good about Brand, if not a tad ironic, is that he is creating political awareness among those who he himself has advised not to vote. However, when somebody brought his 'don't vote' stance up on Question Time last week, Brand's response was spot on: 'give me something to vote for', he said.

Russell Brand – the right wing press call him a hypocrite
I don't like it when people from 'pop culture' appear on Question Time as I think they tend to do themselves no favours. John Lydon springs to mind. He's quite an intelligent guy in his own right but he plays to the audience a bit too much and falls back on his Johnny Rotten persona for laughs. Brand is similar, occasionally reverting to his comedian self and again not doing himself any favours. However, if he's bringing politics to the masses and encouraging people to vote by, in a sense, default, then he's doing a good thing.

By far the most irksome element of the row between the right wing media and Brand – or rather the stance adopted by the right wing media TOWARDS Brand, is the notion that he, Brand, is a hypocrite which, as Sophie Heawood writes in this week's Guardian Weekend magazine, is a strong word that is nearly always used to try to make someone feel bad about doing something good.

"This month it [the word 'hypocrite'] has been plastered across the front page of the Sun, over a picture of Russell Brand, who was campaigning on behalf of residents of a London council estate at risk of losing their homes to a property developer. The logic apparently being that if you're rich enough to pay London rents, as he [Brand] is, then you shouldn't be sticking up for people who aren't."

According to Heawood, "In these hyper-critical times, if you have anything at all in your life that differentiates you from a humble peasant, it is safer to just keep stumm about it."

Our chit chat in the caff meant that we didn't get underway until gone 0910hrs, having taken the obligatory shot of the bikes, this time outside the Tudor Rose. We didn't dawdle on the return ride and reached Warlingham Green in under an hour. Not bad going. I reached home around 1020hrs and later in the day went out to buy a Christmas tree, which now has pride of place in the living room.

Outside the Rose.
Right now it's 0647hrs and I can't say I'm looking forward to opening the front door. It's what they call 'brass monkey' weather out there and I'm so glad that my balaclava was readily at hand in the wardrobe. I can't see it being a long ride, but I'll report back later today hopefully. Westerham's Christmas tree, incidentally, is still minus any decoration so I assume it's going to stay that way – how boring!

Right, it's time to go outside and brave the cold that is Sunday morning. I've donned the balaclava and my hat with flaps from Millets and I'm going to listen to Boris Johnson and not wear my crash helmet today. If Johnson says it's not been scientifically proven that helmets are lifesavers, well that's good enough for me and besides, it's freezing out there so I'm going to sacrifice my own safety for warmth. Here's hoping I return safely!

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