Saturday, 19 November 2016

Round to mum's...and a few weekend thoughts

This morning at around 0300hrs I was awake, listening to the rain and the wind. Bad weather had been promised, I thought, and sure enough, outside of my window there were swaying trees and pounding rain; that's what I could hear at any rate.

I'd had a strange dream in which veteran comedy actor Leslie Philips was in a blue helicopter as it came into land over some water. A ladder the same colour as the helicopter appeared and Philips, lying on his stomach, slid on to a bed of ice cubes laid out on the ground below. Then, for some reason, I dropped my iphone and cracked the screen. "That's the first time I've done that," I said to somebody – I can't recall who exactly.

The next thing I heard was the radio. A woman's voice. It was 0605hrs and time to get up. I wondered whether it was still raining and when I pulled back the curtain to take a look at the top of my neighbour's flat-roofed extension, sure enough, it was pouring.

"Looks like an abort," I texted to Andy at 0611hrs, and he replied. "Yeah. See you next weekend."

I was out of bed so I didn't fancy getting back in again. Time to head downstairs and make breakfast: tea, Weetabix with raspberries (10 of them) and a boiled egg with fingers. And now it's 0645hrs and I'm sitting here writing the blog.

Cold weather
Yesterday was cold. There was a frost on the lawn and because Andy wasn't going and Phil was out with Steve, I decided to ride over to mum's, but I waited until 0800hrs – ten past to be precise – before I ventured outside wearing many layers of clothing. There was a tee-shirt, a shirt, a hooded top and then an old rusty jacket I should really throw out but keep for sentimental reasons. I remember the days when it wasn't used for gardening, but was a pukka piece of clothing worn with jeans on a night out. It's amazing how the mighty have fallen, I thought, examining the raggedy old piece of clothing, which has served me well for years of cycling. I'd bought it from Next when the store had a certain caché.

I was also wearing a green, woollen balaclava, one that makes me look like an IRA terrorist from the 1970s, but the problem is the eye holes: they make it virtually impossible to see anything and bring me back to my ridiculous, slapstick behaviour that recently led to me falling off the bike and being virtually incapacitated for a month. As I rode along Barnfield it was as if I had somehow managed to wrap a load of elastic bands around my head, distorting everything, particularly my vision. I stopped twice to re-arrange the eye holes, but ultimately it was foolhardy wearing this particular item of headgear. I should have taken it off, but instead I persevered, drawing strange looks from other road users, including the police, who might have thought I had just robbed a bank and had made my getaway on a stolen bicycle.

Round at mum's...
I followed the usual route: down Jarvis Road, across the Brighton Road, up Hayling Park Road, across the mini roundabout and around the edges of Purley Playing Fields until I met up with the A23. I turned right at the lights by the Hilton National and then left through the "Grand Theft Auto" industrial estate which, as always, was littered with 'white van' men. On to the Stafford Road I headed towards Mellows Park, passing Wilson's School and then on towards Wallington High Street, across the lights, past the gym and down towards the Boundary Road roundabout before a mild ascent along Stanley Park Road, a right into Crichton Road, past the Village Bakery and right on the road that leads down to the Windsor Castle lights where I turn left, followed by a right and then I'm at mum's.

Mum lets me bring my bike into the hallway because it's new and clean. I worry about leaving it outside on the extreme off chance that a thief might pass by. Highly unlikely as mum lives in a cul-de-sac and you don't get many passers-by in a cul-de-sac.

"Would you like a boiled egg?"

I declined, having enjoyed one earlier, but settled for tea and two slices of fruit cake. Well, I was on the bike, I'd just riden six or seven miles and I had a similar mileage back so I knew I'd burn off the calories.
A mug of tea and my first slice of fruit cake...

Jon rang while I was there so we had a brief chat and soon, after tea and cake, it was time to head home. The journey back is a carbon copy of the outward ride, but in reverse, except that this time I'd asked mum to cut through the balaclava and get rid of the eye holes. Much better! I said goodbye, promising to return on Sunday as it's mum's birthday next week and I won't get time to drop round due to work pressures. I still haven't bought her anything and to be honest it's hard to buy something for an 87-year old woman who has everything she'll ever need. Normally I'll buy her a plant or something for the kitchen. Over the years I've bought her vases and little Melamine trays and tea cups and tea towels, you name it, butter dishes, teapots, egg cups, that sort of thing, mainly because that's the sort of person mum is; she likes homely things and has always lived a kind of Brambly Hedge existence, making cakes and pies and listening to Radio Four at the crack of dawn while watching the foxes play on the lawn.

The problem, of course, is that when I find myself in John Lewis, wondering what to buy her, it all gets a little frustrating. 

"What about tea towels?"
"She's got loads of tea towels."
"A cup?"
"Have you seen how many mugs and cups she's got?"
"A paperweight?"
"Too boring."
"This is nice."
"What is it?"
"I don't know."

So as I write this I have nothing for her bar a card from M&S and that invariably means the default present of some flowers, but I'm always getting her flowers or a plant and I'm sure her face sags sub-consciously with disappointment when I bring them out, although she'll never say anything. But what exactly do you buy and 87-year-old woman? Clothes are out of the question, although, in the past, I have bought her gloves and scarves. It's difficult and it's going to bug me all day, especially when you consider how much work needs to be done.

Mum and yours truly, Saturday morning 'round at mum's'
A trip to IKEA
I've been to IKEA. Now there's a shop I absolutely abhor, although it does have a rather impressive catering operation. My homeless fantasy revealed itself again while I followed the arrows on the floor and suddenly realised that IKEA was a bit like the Perky Pat Layouts of Philip K. Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

As we passed various bedroom layouts I wondered how easy it would be to stay behind after everybody had gone home and simply get into bed and sleep. I wonder if anybody has ever tried it? Perhaps at night time there are a handful of homeless people snuggled up under the covers enjoying a decent kip away from the mean streets of South London, who knows?

In the canteen or cafeteria or whatever they call such a massive catering operation, I realised that if I was on benefits, even if I was sleeping in a tent in the woods, IKEA would be the place to visit for food. It's possible to pay under £2 for a main course meal – Swedish meat balls, mashed potato and greens – meaning one could live Monday to Friday on ten pounds. And the food's alright. I ordered a couple of paninis and a bowl of soup, plus tea (95p per mug) and we sat there watching a Japanese toddler enjoy a bowl of peas and carrots. At least he wasn't being fed chicken nuggets and baked beans, I thought.

We wound our way around the store, passing bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms and with every step I was getting bored. There's only so much I can take of this sort of place, although such a visit does rather characterise my weekends – or rather it is a chief ingredient. I'm not saying that I visit IKEA very often, but it would slide easily into the 'shopping for something' element of my weekends; and if we're not shopping for something we'll drive aimlessly into the countryside and end up in a teashop somewhere. Don't get me wrong, I love it. And while trampsing around IKEA isn't that much fun, it beats working and it's kind of part of family life along with watching Saturday evening television, cottage pie and going for an early morning ride on the bike.

Having been to IKEA, of course, there's always an item of flat pack furniture that needs assembling, so I know what I'll be doing for most of the day.

It's now 0725hrs and all is quiet. I'm sitting here in the glow of the lamp with the red bulb, breakfast eaten, tea cup empty – make that a mug, a Catherine Kidson 'bowl' would be a better description – and all I can hear is the sound of the house, the purr of the central heating. 

I'd better sign off, except to say that I need to address the serious lack of cycling these past five or six weeks. I'm pretty much to blame for falling off the bike on October 1st, but what with the bad weather and the odd bit of travelling, it's not good and we all need the exercise. Here's hoping that next week we're out and about and that the weather is at least dry. I've yet to ride to Westerham on the Rockhopper, so I'm looking forward to that possibility.

Rockhopper 29 Sport
On the Rockhopper front, everytime I ride it I realise what a splendid machine it is; those 29in wheels are a treat and so are those 27 gears. In essence, there's not a hill I can't climb or a straight stretch of flat road I can't exploit – it's a brilliant bike.

Now, where's the flat pack furniture? Ah yes, it's in the hallway...

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