Sunday, 8 May 2016

To Westerham for tea and toast, and a solo ride to mum's

The word 'moreish' is often used to disguise greed, as if the notion that something is 'moreish' somehow excuses one from admitting that he or she is simply a pig. You know what I mean, you stuff your face with a bag of non-salted cashew nuts and when somebody mentions that you've 'scoffed the lot' your rather lame excuse is simply that they were 'quite moreish'. As if the person accusing you of being a pig is going to say, "Ah! Moreish are they? Well in that case I take back what I said."

But let's face it, unsalted cashew nuts ARE moreish. Once a packet is opened they have to be scoffed. Likewise sultanas or raisins, purchased for the purpose of making a cake, are soon consumed and at the risk of no cake being made. It's a sorry state of affairs, especially for somebody like me who finds quite a lot of things 'moreish'. Beer and wine being a prime example.

The breakfast table was set when I arrived...
I must point out that, as I write this, I am sitting in my back garden on a newly weeded patio. The sun is shining, the skies are blue, I can hear the distant sound of a light aircraft making its way somewhere and there's a wind chime chiming away in the light breeze. In short, it's absolutely wonderful. I am sitting under a large green umbrella, there's a towel swaying silently in the breeze on a rotary drier, birds are tweeting and, as I look out on to the lawn, I spy what looks like the discarded antlers of a reindeer but is, in fact, a branch from a tree that needed pruning and now needs to be cut into tiny pieces ready for disposal. I look at it with other ambitions. I'm thinking that I might have a bonfire later, in the twilight, with a beer. I want to enjoy the full primeval wonder of the flame, fanned by the breeze as the sun goes down. I even have thoughts of one day, lighting up a wood fire and pitching a small tent at the top of the garden where I might even spend the night, under the stars, as they say, with, no doubt, other members of my family looking out after dark, from the warmth of the house, and wondering whether I might have taken leave of my senses. Perhaps they would be right, but then I often think about sleeping in the wild. Yesterday, while driving through Ashdown Forest on the other side of East Grinstead, I felt a strange yearning to be under canvas and, as avid readers of this blog will know, it's a subject that has come up before on many a ride. I would dearly love to combine the two, cycling and sleeping under canvas, but as yet a suitable situation has yet to arise. One day, perhaps.

The reason I bring up cashew nuts and, indeed, beer, is that I've just enjoyed both. I remembered that there were cashew nuts in the larder and so helped myself to a couple of handfuls and I had just finished a bottle of Golden Summer Ale, I think that's what it was called, from the Hepworth Brewery in Horsham, West Sussex. Both – the nuts and the beer – are moreish and that, perhaps, is a good reason why I only have one bottle of the aforementioned beer in the house. Had there been two I would, no doubt, be drinking it right now; and if there were three, well, it wouldn't be long before I tucked into that too, putting paid to any idea of finishing off the garden chores and, indeed, anything else other people might have had in mind for my otherwise relaxing Sunday afternoon.

It is unbelievably peaceful out here in the garden. Earlier I threaded the lap top's charger through the kitchen window, enabling me to engage in a bit of alfresco blogging and I have to say that it's the way to go. The wind chime continues to chime, the breeze occasionally blows and the skies are even bluer than they were a few minutes ago. That towel still sways on the rotary drier and, lo and behold, the sound of an aeroplane brings back memories of my childhood when, on a similar day to this, I might have been sitting in a paddling pool with my brother and sister, back at home in Carshalton, feeling, perhaps, a little cold in the breeze and getting mildly disheartened when the sun disappears behind a cloud and all I could hear was the sad sound of a crying airliner, invisible to the naked eye, making its descent towards Heathrow. There was something strangely depressing about the sun being extinguished and the sound of a jet engine, almost moaning, as the plane prepared for its final approach.

Amazing weather
The weather this weekend has been truly amazing. I was going to say 'like a summer's day' but in all honesty, it IS a summer's day. It's early May and, for the first time in many a month it was odd to see Phil in a tee-shirt and shorts and wearing no gloves. Yesterday we rode to Westerham with Steve, but before we set off I quickly fixed that bulge in my front tyre, which, Phil informed me, had something to do with catching the inner tube in the valve. Once fixed we headed towards the Limpsfield Road and then, on Church Way, Steve's rear wheel of his Boardman mountain bike, seized up and he had to return to get another bike. Phil and I pressed on towards Westerham wondering how far we would get before Steve caught up with us. Steve, it must be said, is fit and a keen road racer. We joked that he'd catch us at the top of Church Way, but in the end we were sitting comfortably outside of the Tudor Rose café sipping tea and munching toast before he arrived. We sat and chatted for a while about keeping fit and about bikes and Andy and I's long lost idea about setting up our own cycle café and shop and soon it was time to head for home.

Nobody likes the hill out of Westerham, but, as always, it was a case of heads down and get on with it – and that we did. Soon we had reached Botley Hill where Steve decided it was time for him to power home without us, leaving Phil and yours truly on the Limpsfield Road, quite content to make our way home at a steadier pace. The weather was fantastic. There and back we were graced with the presence of a warm breeze, blue skies and sunshine and it wasn't long before we were sailing down Church Way having enjoyed an excellent ride. I reached home at 1019hrs.

The great thing about riding to Westerham, as opposed to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (our default ride for many months) is that we feel as if we've had a decent ride and that's because it's a decent distance – a 22-mile round trip. I think we should aim to ride to Westerham on at least one day of the weekend. To be fair, there have been two successive Westerham jaunts (this week and last week) so we're getting back into our stride.

A Sunday morning ride to mum's
This morning I decided to ride to mum's and left the house around 0730hrs having enjoyed Weetabix, blueberries and sliced banana plus a cup of tea before departing. Once again the weather was amazing, better than yesterday if the truth be known. There was the blue sky and the sunshine and a mild breeze as I wound my way down West Hill, turned left into Essenden, right on to Carlton Avenue and then down Jarvis Road, past my pal Martin's house, up Hayling Park Road and across the mini-roundabout towards Purley Playing Fields. Today, the fields seemed to be endless and green and peppered with goalposts minus the nets. They stretched off into the distance like a giant game of croquet. Dotted here and there was a handful of early morning dog walkers. I rode towards the A23 and the grey, squat Hilton National Hotel and then I turned right and left and found myself on what became the Stafford Road.

Mum and yours truly in mum's garden, Sunday 8th May 2016
There's little traffic on the outward journey to mum's on a Sunday morning, but it gets a little heavier on the return trip. I could have riden to Botley Hill or the Bus Stop, but it's no fun on my own so I pedalled over to Carshalton with a view to a second breakfast consisting of boiled egg, orange segments and a couple of slices of bread and butter, not forgetting the tea and the chat. I'd hoped to see Bon there, but mum said he'd probably gone for a drive. The fact that he didn't respond to my text messages backed this up so I chilled for a while, went out into the garden with mum and reminisced about the olden days.

While the garden has changed considerably since we all lived at home, the surrounding trees and the general environment have remained the same and that's what brings back those memories of dad sitting in the garden with his Tolly Cobbold and the Sunday Times, back in the day when the term 'the right wing press' held little significance. In those days, reading the Sunday Times was a sign of intelligence and astuteness, while reading the Daily Mail was something only women did – the latter is probably still true.

I think the reason why the summer months bring home those times of childhood is because the warm weather takes us out of the house and into the garden and that's where the happy memories lurk: the swimming pool, the hose fights, the cups of tea in the garden, mum's homemade lemonade, dad and with his beer and cigarettes – the smell of tobacco smoke in the air, dad in his blue shorts and white bush hat, and burning old newspapers with magnifying glasses. And let's not forget the trains at the top of the garden, hidden from view during the summer months, but exposed in the winter.

As I cycled up Rossdale I noticed how nothing had really changed. The road was still a golden colour, just like mum's hair, although it was patched up here and there with stretches of black tarmac (the road, not mum's hair). The houses looked the same too, because they were the same. Mum and the Browns, however, are the only original residents, the ones who were there when I was a kid. John Brown, who used to play tennis with dad and run the odd London marathon, turns 70 this week. I know this only because I spied an envelope with his name on it in the kitchen and mum told me it was his birthday.

We sat outside in the garden for about 20 minutes or so and while it was just gone 0900hrs, it was already warm. In all honesty I could have sat there for longer, but I was conscious of the impending ride home, so I made my farewells and headed home, following my outward route, but slightly more warily due to the build-up of traffic.

I can't remember what time I reached home, but it was probably around 1030hrs and I had the rest of the day ahead of me. The sun continued to shine, the wind chime played on in a light breeze and I sat in the shade nursing that beer I mentioned earlier before deciding to write this post in the open air.

It's now just gone 1800hrs, the sun is still shining, the wind chime is still tinkling in the breeze and as the sun heads west the shade races across the lawn. Those towels are still swaying gently on the rotary drier and the skies are still blue. It's warm too and time to consider dinner so I'll sign off until the next time.

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