Saturday, 3 October 2015

Thick fog at the Tatsfield Bus Stop

Thick fog at Warlingham Green
One of my greatest fears when I wake up in the morning and make my way wearily downstairs to open up the house is finding a wild animal in the living room. I'm not talking about bison or buffalo, python or pig, but I am referring to a squirrel or a fox that might have unwittingly fallen through the chimney stack. I think the worst find would be a squirrel because of the havoc it might wreak once I've opened the door and it's scampered off to wake up the rest of the family.

Oddly, the fear only arises when I reach the downstairs hallway and discover that the door to the living room has been locked. I worry that on opening it I'll be confronted by an affronted, bushy-tailed rodent who then charges off and ruins my weekend – I'd certainly have to send Andy an 'abort' text and then set about the task of apprehending Squirrel Nutkin and ejecting him from the premises.

Fortunately, when I opened the living room door this morning there was nothng to be concerned about, although I do once recall finding a pigeon staring at me in a rather peeved manner and that wasn't too pleasant, I can tell you. I mean, it ruined everything. What was going to be a leisurely start to the day – some Shredded Wheat, a slice of toast, a cup of tea – had been replaced by manic panic while I desperately wondered how the hell the situation could be rectified.

It's October now and when I wake up at 0600hrs it is dark outside. Winter approaches, but so far the weather has been wonderful. All of last week was brilliant sunshine and, apart from a few 'chilly starts' – they really weren't that bad – you could say we've been experiencing an Indian summer. Throughout the working week I've been walking long distances at lunch time through wetlands surrounding Redhill in Surrey and I've trekked from there to Merstham a couple of times too. All-in-all, as Jon Pertwee used to say, "A perfectly excellent chicken korma."

My highlight of the week
A highlight of my week was on Thursday morning when I innocently boarded the 0827hrs train from Purley to Redhill and found myself face-to-face with none other than Michael Portillo, the former Tory Minister of Defence and now a media star in his own right. Portillo – a surname perilously close to Portaloo – is more well known these days for his programme Great British Railway Journeys. And that was why I found him on my train, complete with camera crew. He was on his way to Merstham where, he told me, Alfred Nobel tested his first ever stick of dynamite.

Michael Portillo
With brilliant weather all week, there was always the chance that the weekend would be appalling, but the television forecasters predicted that the good weather would continue over Saturday and Sunday (possibly getting a little cloudy on Sunday) but then the bad weather would kick in next week. All week there had been talk of early morning fog and today there was plenty of it. In fact I've never known it to be so thick and so widespread. On the ride along the Limpsfield Road towards Warlingham Green it was so dense that I couldn't see the Green until I was virtually on it.

As we rode towards Botley Hill there was no let-up. The fog stayed with us all the way to the bus stop where we had agreed to stop, drink our tea and relax with a BelVita biscuit. Well, alright, we had four each as there was no Phil this morning – he'd aborted, but promised sausage sandwiches for Sunday. The fog remained thick throughout our chill-out time at the bus stop. Passing cars simply disappeared within nanoseconds of passing us and we both knew that the ride home would be more precarious than the outward journey, mainly because of thick fog and increased traffic flow.

Steel, Syria, Religion and nationalism
Our conversation was multi-faceted covering the closure of SSI UK's steel plant in Redcar and the reasons behind the company's decision to shut up shop (cheap Chinese steel imports, punitive UK business rates – higher than in France and Germany – and, of course, equally punitive green taxes). We moved on to discuss the crisis is Syria and how the West should be supporting the Russian initiative (to eradicate ISIS but leave Assad in power) rather than adhere to ideologically-based thinking designed solely to create divisions and fuel unrest both regionally in the Middle East and on the international stage. That said, how can Assad remain in power when he is effectively the cause of the problem and the mass migration experienced in Europe these past few months. One could argue, however, that the West has caused all the problems and then effectively done nothing about it. We invaded Iraq (illegally and after Blair had weaved a pack of lies about 'weapons of mass destruction'. We had a big hand in the downfall of Gaddafi and we've been supplying arms to various rebel groups in Syria to fight Assad.

Thick fog at the Tatsfield Bus Stop
The conversation weaved its way around to religion and nationalism and how both are the root of all evil in the world.

Soon it was time to head home and we thought it best, once on the 269, to use the off-road track. This is a risky tactic because of the hawthorn bushes that line the path. We were both chancing it. "I wouldn't be at all surprised if we get a puncture," I said to Andy as we reached the roundabout near Warlingham Sainsbury's.

We rode to the Green where we resolved to meet again tomorrow morning at 0730, hopefully with Phil and his amazing sausage sandwiches.

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