Saturday, 3 December 2016

Phil's moves out...and we ride to Tatsfield village

It's good when you know one of your neighbours on more than a 'good morning, lovely day!' basis. Ever since around May 2013 Phil and I have become pals, he's joined Andy and I on our rides and, of course, he is a fully paid-up member of the NoVisibleLycra team.

Yesterday, however, Phil moved out and now he lives closer to Andy in Caterham. From today, we'll have to meet on the Green rather than cycle there together.

Sunrise in the Field of the Horses
When I walked past Phil's house yesterday evening, the lights were off, the bins were out and there were no cars on the drive. Phil has moved. Over the years I've grown used to seeing his cars on the drive – the old Boxster, the Mercedes estate, the Volvo – and the house lights blaring in the evening. And when it's time for bed, Phil's place is either ablaze with light or quiet and plunged into darkness, not through absence, but sleep. In the morning, on the way to work, we often met on the walk to the station or on the platform. In short, it's the end of an era. Today, probably, new neighbours will arrive and who knows, we might have another member of the NoVisibleLycra team.

All I know is that this morning, when I take the bike from the garage, there will be no point looking over to see if Phil's up or whether he's going to appear on his classic racer and accompany me to the green. He's not there and the house, for a short while, is empty.

Andy's bike on Clarks Lane...
I'm making it all sound very sombre and final, but it's nothing of the sort: he's bought a large Victorian house about six or seven miles away, it needs a lot of work doing to it, but he's up for the challenge and, no doubt, we'll hear all about the trials and tribulations of such a mammoth project when we next meet up.

My plan was to ride to mum's this morning, but Andy sent me a text last night asking if I was going out this morning. Normally, if Andy can make it, I go with him, as I can always drive round to see mum later in the day.

I awoke early and was downstairs making breakfast around 0619hrs – Weetabix, a slice of toast and a cup of tea. I made the tea for the flask and left the house around 0710hrs. The Rockhopper performed well from the outset, taking Church Way in its stride, and soon I found myself on the Limpsfield wishing I'd sorted out my lights. I need a new battery in the front light and I need a new rear light, preferably one that's rechargeable. I'll sort something out next week as there's a train strike, the bike is due it's free check up at Evans and I can check out the lights when I get there. Well, it's one plan.

Andy was at the green when I arrived and we agreed to head for Tatsfield Village, the slow way, mainly because it was the only place that offered cover and dry seats. As our we wound our way around the country lanes beyond Warlingham I spotted a rather decent sunrise and stopped to take a photograph (see above). Andy missed a trick here; he thought he would wait until we reached a spot on Beddlestead Lane, but as we progressed along the route, the sunrise disappeared.

Last week there was a smashed up taxi on a grass verge; this week there was a privately owned Golf in a similar state resting on a grass verge along Clarks Lane. I took a photograph while Andy rode a few yards further along the road to take a shot of the Blast in a clearing.

Another car crash...
We doubled back to Approach Road, turned right and headed for Tatsfield Village where we took our seats at the bus stop and the tea and biscuits came out. The Old Ship pub was still deserted and they'd put beer barrels across the entrance to the car park. "To keep the gypsies out," I suggested, but Andy said a few barrels wouldn't stop them.

Andy mentioned a programme on television about Lancaster Castle (Channel Five) and the story of two boys who were banished to Australia from the United Kingdom for stealing sheep. They faced the death penalty but because they were only children their lives were spared and they were transported to Australia where they set up a very successful sheep station and lived out their lives in a fairly solvent state – talk about karma. Later, one of their descendants, a female QC, flew to the United Kingdom to the very court that had tried the boys and banished them down under. "What goes around comes around," I said.

We moved on to another one of our fantasy conversations. Remember the coffee shop and bicycle repair business idea? The one that the Westerham Cyclery put into practice? Well, now we're on to something else: a bed and breakfast in the Scottish Highlands, operating just six or seven months a year (when the weather's good) and offering a range of mountain bike trails. Life would be little more than riding around the desolate Scottish Highlands, shopping (when food was needed) and chilling out watching television in between rides. But we both know only too well that our dreams will remain dreams, not because we're totally incapable of realising them, but because, well, we're quite happy where we are, living 'down south' in the comfort and warmth of South Croydon and Caterham and riding out at the weekends. Still, the thought of doing little else but cycling in the middle of nowhere has a certain appeal.

One thing I haven't mentioned is the weather. It was a wonderful day; very bright and not cold, although I still wore the balaclava. The ride out of Tatsfield was fantastic. The sun cast the perfect light on the surrounding fields as we rode towards the famous bus stop and the T-junction at Clarks Lane. We'd considered going back the slow way, but while I suggested it, I quickly changed my mind, preferring instead the speed offered by the 269. That said, I'm always tempted to throw caution to the wind on the puncture front and take the off-road track, but there's a point on the road when Slines Oak comes into view when I always feel I'm on the home straight and soon Knight's goes past, we hit suburbia and all is well with the world.

I reached home around 1000hrs. There was a man on Phil's front lawn sporting a shaven head and shorts. A builder? A decorator? Who knows? Not me. And of course it's not Phil's front lawn anymore, it's somebody else's. I padlocked the bike and headed indoors. A trip to London followed and later dinner followed by Strictly Come Dancing, which I'm watching now as I write this. The voting is now open! Here's to a ride tomorrow.

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