Everything was, at best, damp, and at worst, wet. Water fell off the branches of trees overhanging the road and, as we passed Beech Farm, somewhere in the mist, shots rang out. Shotguns. Even in the mist grouse shooting was considered safe. I began to wonder how they would spot the birds and whether Andy and I were sitting ducks, but I'm still alive to tell the tale so I guess there wasn't a risk of being shot.
|Andy and Matt, Tatsfield Churchyard, Sunday 13 March|
"I wonder how we would've got on without mobile phones," I said, sitting on a bench in the churchyard and surveying the wet and misty landscape surrounding me.
"How do you mean?" asked Andy.
"If one of us got a puncture or was running late."
"We'd just to have wait," said Andy.
"Yes, assume there's been a problem, give it half an hour and then go on without whoever hadn't turned up."
"We'd have to agree a meeting point and time on the landline before setting out," said Andy. "Just like in the olden days before mobile phones."
"And if we were out and, say, Phil wanted to join us later, he'd have to visit all our known haunts until he found us. I wonder what the best plan of action would be?"
"Ride first to the bus stop, then into the village, then down to here and then Westerham," said Andy.
"Only to discover that we'd riden to St Leonard's Church instead," said I.
"It's definitely not camping weather," said Andy, looking at the wet grass and the dripping trees.
"Did you see that homeless programme on TV during the week? A bunch of celebrities, including Willie Thorne, sleeping rough for charity?"
"No," Andy replied.
"If I was homeless I'd definitely buy a tent and head for the woods. The city would be too dangerous. I'd go to Croham Woods and every morning I'd walk into Croydon and beg for money."
The conversation moved on to Lycra Monkeys. We'd seen a few on the outward ride, as always, and now we were engaged in our usual chat about the discourse of the Lycra Monkey, which, for some reason, we thought, revolved around the subject of pension plans and other 'senior management' topics. The dialogue had started as we rode along the 269 discussing the price of cycling stuff. Andy talked about a bike that cost £8,000 and we moaned about the exploitative nature of the 'sport'. I put the word 'sport' in inverted commas purely because I don't think Andy and I consider what we do a 'sport'. We've said on many occasions that we ride out early in the morning to drink tea and eat biscuits. We're not concerned about 'precious grams' and, as avid readers will know, we don't wear Lycra.
We moved on to talk about farting – as you do – and how the very act is a measure of a new relationship moving on to the next level. When you start a relationship with somebody, farting in front of them is taboo, but when it does take place, it means that things have become a little more serious. A hypothetical chunk of dialogue between two women followed when Andy engaged himself in the following conversation:
"Yeah not bad; 'things' are getting a little more serious between us."
"How d'you mean?"
"Well, he farted."
And with raucous laughter disturbing the misty silence of the churchyard, we wheeled our bikes past the headstones and down the stairs and then cycled up the hill towards Botley Hill Farm and beyond. As we passed Beech Farm the shots rang out again. Perhaps they were aiming for us, I thought, but we survived and as we rode on to Warlingham Green we noticed that the fog had all but disappeared. Pulling up outside the Co-op we discussed next week's ride. Andy wouldn't be going on Saturday. "So enjoy your ride," he said with a smile and the expected sarcasm that always accompanies the remark.
"Unless Phil goes, I'll probably cycle over to mum's," I said, and with that we rode off in different directions.