Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Rail strike – so I ride to work!

Riding to work, as I've said before, is not exactly a fun thing to do. Once I'm in the saddle I always feel as if somebody – probably me – has upturned one of those old fashioned hour glasses full of sand and then, as I make my way towards my destination, the sand is seeping through one end of the glass and collecting in a pile at the bottom of the one below. In other words, I'm riding against the clock. Not that I have any real sense of urgency. Oh no, I'd rather take things a little easy, ease myself in to the ride, take in my surroundings and generally enjoy what I'm doing.

Southern, a train operating company, are on strike. I think it's something to do with the introduction of new 12-car trains without guards, but I can't be certain. There hasn't been a train strike for a long time. It reminds me of the old days of Ted Heath in the 1970s when we had a three-day week. Fortunately, back then, I was a kid and train strikes didn't really bother me. They bothered my dad instead. I'll always remember him going on about Ray Buckton, the head of ASLEF, who was always causing industrial strife off the back of a rail strike.

The Henty Wingman – I used mine today
Anyway, there are no trains so I had two choices: ride to work or take the bus and I chose the former. Unfortunately, because it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, I didn't leave the house until late (just gone 0800hrs, probably around 0810hrs by the time I was actually on the bike and riding up Ellenbridge. In fact, for me, the worst bit of the entire ride was probably from leaving the house until I reached the top of Church Way, because it seems to take an age to get there. The rest of the outward journey was pretty much fine. I rode up the Limpsfield Road to Wentworth Way, rode the length of Wentworth Way, past Warlingham High School, down Tithepit Shaw Lane, up Whyteleafe Hill and then Whyteleafe Road, emerging God knows where, somewhere in Caterham, and then turning right at Stanstead Road and following it all the way through the rural badlands on the outskirts of Merstham before descending, along Warwick Wold Road, into the back end of Merstham, turning left just before School Hill and finding Battlebridge Lane or Road, I can't remember. Soon I was heading for the local leisure centre where I padlocked the bike to the rack and paid the extortionate sum of £5 for a shower, including a quid for a locker token.

Then the hassles started. For a moment I thought I'd left my glasses behind – but I hadn't – and generally it was all a bit irritable, mainly because time was moving on, I'd left later than I should have and it was heading towards 1000hrs. I discovered that the sandwiches I'd lovingly made (tuna, spring onion and tomato) had been squashed into a ball. I had to throw them out and later visit the M&S café for soup and rolls. But once I'd showered and changed into my suit I cycled the short ride to the office, padlocked the bike and embarked upon a day's work. I was feeling totally energised and chatty and, it has to be said, on top of the world. If anything I was too full of beans.

A few potential problems lurked. I was convinced on the ride down that my front tyre was going to explode on me. While I thought my front wheel was buckled, closer inspection led to me to discover that there was a strange bulge in the tyre. I figured it could blow any minute, but it didn't. Punctures are just what I don't need when I'm riding to and from work and, fortunately, nothing happened.

The last time I remembered snow in April was back in 2008 but we had some today. Just a burst followed by blue skies and sunshine. Fortunately I was safe and sound in the office and not on the bike. But sooner or later I'd be back on the bike. I decided to leave it until after 6pm when I figured the traffic would be calmer. Unfortunately the weather was looking decidedly dodgy. The skies had darkened and rain was threatened as I headed up a brief stretch of the A23 en route to Merstham via Frenches Road. It was spitting rain and I was constantly assessing in my mind where I could take shelter in a downpour, but it never came. I was so worried I would get drenched that I stopped off at Merstham railway station where I was told there were no trains. There was nothing for it, I'd have to ride all the way home, but which way?

I was tempted to ride the slow way, the rural route through Chaldon, similar, in fact, to my outward journey, but I was conscious of a possible downpour and decided instead to head up the A23 and through Coulsdon and Purley.While I thought it would be unpleasant, it wasn't. Probably because I'd left it later and the traffic was getting less and less. In fact, it wasn't until I reached Purley Cross that there were potential danger spots, although I managed to negotiate all the problems and soon found myself in the back streets beyond Purley Station and heading up the Purley Oaks Road or the Purley Downs Road, I can't remember which, although I think it was the latter.

It last snowed in April in 2008....
When I reached home I felt totally energised, but also very hungry and enjoyed every bit of my dinner, washed down with a pint of London Pride – not forgetting Weetabix and sliced banana and a slice of brown bread without any butter. I'm still hungry now, but also a little tired. The football is on. Manchester City versus Real Madrid, it's 0-0 and not a very exciting match.

I'm so glad I rode in today, but whether I feel like doing it tomorrow, I'm not sure. I took a few risks today. I cycled without a crash helmet, I didn't take a pump or any leeches with me to fix a puncture and I didn't wear any waterproof clothing. In other words, I left myself vulnerable to outside forces. Not a good idea, but fortunately the Gods were on my side and now, as I sit here writing this, I'm beginning to feel pleasantly tired.

The Henty Wingman
Today's ride relied upon the Henty Wingman, a kind of suit carrier and rucksack combined. I put my suit inside the . Wingman along with a pair of shoes, a towel, soap, glasses, sandwiches, a clean shirt, everything I needed was in the Wingman and it performed well on both outward and inward journeys. For more details on the Henty Wingman, click here.

For more on the Henty Wingman, visit the company's site, which is www.henty.cc

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