Sunday, 27 December 2015

The day after Boxing Day...

This morning I awoke early for the first time in a few days. Ever since the 18th December I've been lying in, not stirring much before 0900hrs as work has been off the agenda, thanks to unused holiday.

Today, things were different. The traditional Boxing Day ride had been delayed until today, the day after Boxing Day, a strange day if ever there was one as it represents the first dilution of the Christmas spirit that continues in the run-up to the new year and that strange period of time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day when time is meaningless and nobody has any idea what day it is. We have now entered that space.

Sanderstead pond, Sunday 27th December around 1020hrs

I sit this morning in the living room, not the conservatory, as I'm using my lap top and writing by candlelight – it's still dark. In fact, it's all very Dickensian. There are two candles, both presents, one a so-called Yankee candle, the other a small red candle, both scented and, when added to the halogen glow emanating from the computer screen they lend a 'cosyness' unattainable in the conservatory. The rest of this large room, our living room, is in darkness. I can't see the Christmas tree; or rather I can just about make out its dim shadow and the shine of the baubles reflected in light coming from the kitchen.

The silence of the morning was broken earlier by the sound of unwrapping. A present in many ways. My mum's Christmas cake, small and round and with nuts on top, covered in greaseproof paper, which, at this time of day is surprisingly noisy when unravelled. As the kettle boiled the hot water for our flask I cut two chunks of fruit cake and then wrapped them in silver foil, which made a lighter, wispier noise, by far the more agreeable sound at such an early hour. Nobody has stirred upstairs and now I sit here in virtual darkness, I contemplate another cup of tea.

In all honesty, while an 'abort' text would have been most welcomed, a ride is certainly needed as there's been a lot of sitting around lately. Sitting around and eating or watching television or both. But now that the day is simply the 27th December – it doesn't have a name, like Christmas Day or Boxing Day – it means that, slowly, normality is returning to the remaining days of 2015 and thoughts change to time flying and the prospect of returning to work. Not that I'm really thinking about returning to work just yet. For me it's still the middle of the holidays and there are board games to play.

Last night, just before going to bed, I resolved to play more board games as they bring people together around a table. There was a time when I played board games a lot. When I was a kid we used to have a games tournament in our house, which consisted of playing a selection of games, from good old bagatelle (which I still have) through to board games and playing cards and even a battery-operated horse racing game called the Electric Derby. I wish I still had the Electric Derby, but it's long gone and never to be replaced as 'they don't make toys like they used to' and, besides, these days, toys are computer-based as, indeed, are most games, more's the pity. Actually, that last statement was false: there are plenty of board games in the shops, so they're still highly popular and last weekend in the New Forest, I sat in the snug of the Cottage Lodge Hotel in Brockenhurst (an excellent hotel, by the way) playing Sequences, a kind of hybrid board and card game, which was very enjoyable and easy to play.

People should play more board games.

For the last two days – Christmas Day night and Boxing Day night – I've been playing Monopoly. I'd bought it a couple of years ago to replace an older version that was falling apart. The new game is based on the London Underground and the colours of the different lines. The most expensive property is not Mayfair or Park Lane but Covent Garden and Knightsbridge on the Piccadilly line, but the game is exactly the same as it's always been – apart from the addition of a large red dice for those wanting a quicker version of the game.

"Raining here. Lightly." It's a text from Andy.
"Haven't checked here. I'll take a look and text you back, hold on...", I reply.

It's still dark outside even if we are south of the Winter Solstice, but when it brightens up we'll have a better idea of the weather conditions. Andy has suggested giving it 15 minutes. Last night the TV weatherman did forecast early rain, but I'm guessing it'll be a shower, little more. Unlike in the North West of the country at the moment where flooding has returned to ruin the Christmas holidays for many people. There's rain in the South West too, but not as severe as in the north.

"Let's go for it now," Andy texted, and within a few minutes I was outside the house looking skywards at a grey blanket of cloud. It was 'spitting' – a phrase my dad used quite a bit while on holiday on the south coast. 'Spitting' prefaced rain and a boring day 'indoors' instead of playing on the beach.

I unpadlocked the bike and headed off, pleased with the fact that I'd donned my waterproofs.

Having not riden the bike for a couple of weeks I was feeling a little sluggish as I rode up Church Way. The festive decorations that flashed in windows and front gardens had lost some of their potency and meaning now that it was the 27th of December – four days to New Year's Eve and then, of course, the New Year itself. I rode through the lonely churchyard and on to the Limpsfield Road where the orange flow from the streetlights directed me towards Warlingham Green where Andy was waiting.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop beckoned so off we pedalled on damp roads scattered with puddles. Waterproof clothing protected me from the usual soaking I would suffer in these conditions.

There were quite a few cyclists on the roads, but nobody we knew except for the female jogger and her other half who rides a bike and sets the pace. We see them occasionally and today was one of those occasions. The woman runs a fair distance and this time she brought along her white petit chiands. Later, as we sat at the bus stop munching Christmas cake and biscuits, we saw them again, jogging past the bus stop on Clarks Lane heading towards Westerham, although I'm sure they must live in Tatsfield or, perhaps, on Pilgrims Lane. This time the dog was being carried on the bike and he (or she, I couldn't tell) seemed happy enough.

Yours truly, Sanderstead pond, Sunday 27th December around 1020hrs
Soon it was time to head home. It was another mild day and while it was damp and wet and there were drips of rain here and there, it was nothing serious. On the return ride we saw many more cyclists, some wearing awful, brightly-coloured and luminescent footwear (in bright pink or green). I imagined them opening the box on Christmas morning in front of the tree. "Oooh! Darling! Thank you! Just what I've always wanted." The worrying bit is that they probably asked for them. Who in their right mind would wear such atrocious-looking things? Not me.

Andy rode with me to the green where we parted, promising to ride out again tomorrow, weather permitting, but again at the later time of 0800hrs. There's nothing better than a late start and that's what the Christmas holidays are all about.

Thanks to the waterproofs, I was dry when I returned home and that's all I have to say.

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