Saturday, 6 February 2016

To Westerham in the wind and rain...

Up with the lark and ready to ride. I listened to the news on radio four and then jumped out of bed and made my way to the kitchen where the kettle was filled with water and switched on; toast was placed in the toaster and milk in the saucepan – for the Shredded Wheat.

But there was rain. Well, drizzle, like a fine spray, but it didn't matter because it was warm outside. Waterproof clothing. know when somebody refers to something as 'bombproof'? Never believe them. Because anything with the word 'proof' after it is some kind of lie. I'm sure that anything described as 'bomb proof' would be blown to smithereens if somebody actually attached (and ignited) a bomb on it.

In a slightly different vein, 'stay press' anything invariably isn't; Anchor spreadable? Not always and if something is billed as waterproof – expect a soaking.
We sent this shot to Phil

I rode towards Church Way, in full waterproofs, in the wind and rain, and within a few minutes of leaving the house I was shiny. I felt and looked like the skipper of a North Sea trawler – somebody more than capable of pulling up a chair at the Skipper's Table – and, as I made slow progress up Church Way, the wind seemingly blowing me back down the street, I got wetter and wetter. The only reason I wasn't too bothered was because it was mild, not cold, and the truth of the matter was quite simple to understand: while I was certainly getting wet, the best word – or phrase – to describe it was probably 'a little damp'. Later, when I reached home (at 1010hrs) and peeled off the waterproofs, I had damp trousers underneath, but they weren't wet. Well, alright, they were wet, but I wasn't soaked through is what I'm saying.

Andy was waiting for me at the Green and when he mentioned Westerham – following on from a Facebook comment by yours truly pointing to the fact that I'd been eating too many cakes and biscuits during the week – I admit that I was astonished. Westerham? The northern Kent market town? I couldn't remember the last time we rode there. Andy reckoned it was about a year ago and I've yet to check the exact date. He's probably right.

We decided to get our heads down and ride along the 269, past Botley Hill, past the Tatsfield Bus Stop and down the hill into Westerham. The wind and rain continued, but it wasn't too bad. The rain was still little more than a fine drizzle and the worst thing was the wind. Eventually the rain eased off. We passed a jogger who was travelling in the opposite direction. "At least I'm going this way," she remarked cheerily, alluding to the fact that she had a tailwind while we had to endure a full-on headwind. "We'll have a headwind coming back too," said Andy cynically as we pushed on.

Some people really are slovenly. What idiot, I wondered, had spilt brightly-coloured Dulux paint not only at intervals along the 269, but also further along Clarks Lane as we made our descent into Westerham. How long that paint will be splattered on the 269's cycle lane and Clarks Lane is anybody's guess, but it looks a right mess and it ruins the look of the countryside.

Westerham hadn't changed a bit. The Costa Coffee had its windows boarded up and was closed after the accident over Christmas. Avid readers might recall that a car careened out of control off of the road and through a window of the coffee retail outlet, injuring many and killing an old lady of 70 years old. We noticed a few bunches of flowers left outside as we made our way past, heading in the direction of Churchill's statue on the green.

Everything was wet and there was nowhere to sit down so we stood there, drinking tea and munching Belvita biscuits. And yes, you did hear correctly, I've signed up to Facebook under my real name – Matthew Moggridge – where I've also set up a NoVisibleLycra page. But why I bothered I'll never know. Social media, as I've said many times before, is a complete and utter waste of time. I've been on Linkedin since 2009 and since then I've had ONE job interview (not that I'm looking). As for this blog, it's purely for my own pleasure (I love writing and I've enjoying writing everything I've written on these pages). Once I decided to 'monetise' the blog and guess what? A few ads appeared, but I never made a single penny. And now, for some ridiculous reason, I've signed up to Facebook.

Andy and Matt on Westerham Green, 6 February 2016
We chatted about Top Gear. We both feel that Chris Evans won't pull it off – or rather he'll pull it off, in his own way, but he won't be able to recreate the magic of Messrs. Clarkson, May and Hammond. His biggest mistake would be trying to recreate what Clarkson and Co. created. And what the hell is Matt Le Blanc doing on the show? The strange thing about him is the fact that he's nothing like Joey from Friends. Now I know that's kind of obvious – he was, after all, acting – but I think people expect him to be Joey and he's not, he's quieter and considerably more reserved. Andy says they have an old 'stig' on the show too. Well, again, an 'old' Stig – a leftover from the glory days of Clarkson, May and Hammond. I'd love it to work for Chris Evans, I really would, but I'm still suffering withdrawal symptoms over Clarkson's departure.

The rain eased off early on in the ride and for most of the outward journey it was just wet tarmac and roadside puddles – not good if you don't have mudguards, but at least I had the waterproofs.

Reluctantly we mounted the bikes and rode out of Westerham. It's a long haul from the town to the bottom of the hill, but the hill itself isn't too bad. The problem is that it continues, naggingly, all the way to Botley Hill and beyond before we're able to settle in to a smooth ride along the 269 to Warlingham Green.

When I was a kid I remember pretending my bike was a train and that I was the driver. I made up mythical stations and pretended that kerbsides were platforms. The stations were named after some characteristic of the road, so if there was a plum tree the station was called Plumbury. Now, as I prepared to race past the Tatsfield Bus Stop without stopping I found myself imagining once again that I was driving a train, the non-stop Westerham to Sanderstead train that went through a station called Tatsfield Bus Stop. Silly, I know, but there you have it.

It's quite odd imagining things to be something they're not. I do it all the time. Going back to when I worked for a different publishing company, I remember, on my walks home during the dark, winter months, pretending that a pub fairly close to home was really an old haunted galleon and that I was in a rowing boat, alone, on calm black seas, when the old ship emerged from the fog and I continued on my journey, rowing alongside the eery, creaking, wooden hull, a bell ringing mysteriously on board, getting quieter as I rowed away from the mysterious vessel.

Andy and I parted company on the green and I reached home at 1010hrs. Here's hoping we both feel suitably inclined tomorrow morning to repeat today's performance.

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