Sunday, 26 February 2017

To Tatsfield Village via Beddlestead Lane...

Sometimes I wake up and wonder what the hell I'm doing getting out of bed at an ungodly hour and making breakfast. Fine during the week when there's work to be done, but at the weekend? I should be lying in, getting up around 0800hrs, if not later, having a leisurely breakfast and then slobbing for the rest of the day. Well, where's the fun in that?

This morning, though, I felt a little weary, but it was sleepiness, nothing else, and by the time I'd put the kettle on I was feeling good and looking forward to the ride.

Outside it was wet. Peering out of the window prior to padding downstairs to the kitchen I noticed that there was a large puddle on next door's conservatory roof. The skies were grey and there was a fair-to-middling chance that it would rain. Andy later told me that it did rain over in Caterham, but he pressed ahead and sure enough he was on the green waiting for me when I arrived later than expected. I won't bore you with the details.

Mist heading our way along Beddlestead Lane. Pic: Andy Smith
I aborted on Saturday and I wished I hadn't. The plan had been to ride to Godstone Farm Shop, where they make a decent cup of tea and offer a fine range of home-made cakes. We have steered clear of this place for one good reason: the steep hill on the return journey. It used to be a problem because there was always something wrong with my old bike's gears. But now that I've got a new bike it doesn't matter. There's something great about eating cake after riding a bike, but then again, there's something about drinking beer after riding a bike too or eating an unhealthy breakfast.

There were puddles everywhere as we rode towards the mini roundabout beyond Warlingham Sainsbury's. We turned left and followed the country lanes towards Hesiers Hill and then endured the slow burn of Beddlestead Lane, occasionally overtaken by well-spoken Lycra monkeys.

Halfway along we watched as the mist rolled in from Clarks Lane. It looked so good we stopped and Andy took the photograph that accompanies this blog post. We kept moving, reaching the T-junction with Clarks Lane, turning left and heading towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop, which still lacks seating.

We turned left on to Approach Road and rolled into the village where we broke out the tea and biscuits and discussed various things, such as a £15,000 electric bike from Audi that doesn't need a padlock. I can't remember the details, but Andy said something about refrigerated lorries and how , GPS would be undetectable should a bike thief decide to use one to nick the bike.

The subject of fake news came up too. My view is that a free press is part of a Western democracy, it's part of the system, like an independent judiciary and the House of Lords. So why does Donald Trump want to diss the system? Why does he want everybody thinking that the media is lying and that only he is telling the truth? And why is everybody so fucking gullible? One of the best pieces of stand-up comedy I've ever heard is Frankie Boyle's "It's the fucking banks!" sketch. Inspired.

He starts off saying that when he was a kid he used to watch Columbo and that all episodes followed the same format: the murderer was revealed at the beginning, before the pre-credits, and then the rest of the programme was about how Columbo reveals how and why the murderer committed the crime. Boyle watched the programme with his nan and despite the fact that the murderer had been revealed at the beginning, she still says, "I think she did it." A frustrated Boyle would then say, "No, nan, it wasn't her, it was HIM!!!! You saw who committed the crime at the beginning!"

For Boyle, the current situation in the UK – where everything is blamed on immigration – is similar to an episode of Columbo except that the 'murderer' is the banks. The current state we're all in is nothing to do with immigrants, it was the FUCKING BANKS!!!! The FUCKING BANKS!!! Why can't anybody see that? Is the entire population of the UK just like Boyle's nan watching an episode of Columbo?

We discussed the arrogance of Tony Blair and debated whether or not he was a war criminal and then mounted our bikes and headed for home.

The snow drops were out and the daffodils are on the way. The mornings are getting lighter and soon the clocks go forward, but neither Andy nor I have forgotten that it once snowed in April.

We rode North on the 269 – the fog having lifted – and from certain vantage points we were offered a fleeting glimpse of London from West the East. In the West the shimmering whiteness of Saint Helier Hospital bathed in sunlight and then, panning east, the Shard and then Canary Wharf. It was soon obscured by trees as we descended from the hill and found ourselves back in Warlingham at the mini roundabout next to Sainsbury's.

We parted on the Green. I'd be riding alone next Saturday and I'm wondering where to go. An 'urban ride' to mum's? Possibly. A solo run to Redhill? Could be! But we'll see what the weather has in store.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

To Tatsfield Village...

You can't beat birdsong in the morning, especially if there's a woodpecker on percussion. It's one of the pleasures of being up and out of the house early, the sounds of birds singing, the lonely pigeon cooing on a silhouetted roof top, a rogue seagull, perhaps, as you wind your way around the empty streets, past the drawn curtains of everybody else who are simply not as mad as you are; they're in bed, listening to the radio or sleeping, but either way they have chosen a lazy start to their day. You, on the other hand, are 'out there' in more senses than one, hitting the tarmac, listening to the sound of fat tyres whirring on gravel.

It was my second day of such craziness. Three weeks out of the saddle and I was feeling it. Andy was the same. It just goes to prove that if you let up on the exercise your body soon falls back into a state of weariness and after a while you'll lose momentum completely, you won't be going anywhere, you'll just be drinking tea in your dressing gown, looking out on the long, uncut grass in the garden and dreading the day, which is never far off, when the lawnmower has to be dragged from the garage kicking and screaming and that awful word 'gardening' becomes part of the lexicon again.

Always start the day with a healthy breakfast...
But not today! The climb out towards the Limpsfield Road was not easy as I was a little out of condition, but it was achievable and soon I found myself bombing through the deserted, one-sided high street of Sanderstead, past the lonely recreation ground, Waitrose and Majestic Wine and on towards Hamsey. I reached the green before Andy. The clock said it was 0720hrs, which meant it had taken me just 10 minutes to get there. No way! I checked the iPhone and it was 0733hrs, just the same as yesterday. It's a 23-minute journey if I step on it.

Where to go? It had to be Tatsfield Village, the slow way, although I found Beddlestead Lane a little tiresome and was glad to pass the mobile phone tower and slip gently on to Clarks Lane. We free-wheeled into the village and came to a gentle stop at the bus stop where the flask of hot water, the teabags and the biscuits came out and we sat there, chewing the fat about this and that. Donald Trump, Brexit, the capitalist system, the fact that nothing is really as expensive as we're led to believe it is and that, ultimately, we're all being ripped off, our politicians aren't listening to us and that's why there's Brexit and Trump. We moaned about Blair's arrogant and misguided notion of campaigning to stay in the EU and then, suitably exorcised of all that had been bothering us – including the fact that Clarkson's The Grand Tour was basically a continuation of Top Gear – we headed out of town, in the wrong gear – well, that was my excuse.

The ride back was smooth. We rolled north along the 269 towards Warlingham Green where we vowed to be back on the green next Saturday. Godstone was suggested as a possible destination. There's a farm shop near Godstone, on the A25, that sells decent cake and a decent cup of tea. On that note we parted and I sailed down the Limpsfield Road towards Sanderstead and home.

It had been a good ride and equally good weather, similar to yesterday, but without the fog. The temperature has been mild, but apparently more severe weather – in the shape of heavy wind – is coming our way, that's if you believe what you read in the newspapers, not that I'm suggesting it's fake news!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Solo ride to Botley Hill in the fog...

I was awake at 0528hrs but lay in bed awaiting the news headlines at six. I jumped out of bed around 0610hrs and made myself a healthy breakfast: boiled egg, fingers, chopped orange, blueberries, banana plus a Weetabix. Then, around 0710hrs, tea made, I headed outside, jumped on the bike and headed for the green.
Fog at Botley Hill around 0800hrs Saturday.

I'd forgotten that Andy wasn't going until Sunday and only realised this when I reached the green and there was no sign of him. I checked my messages and there it was, "see you Sunday" so I had a range of choices: Westerham, Tatsfield Village, Botley Hill, mum's – or just cycling home. The latter appealed, only briefly, but riding to mum's nagged at me for a few minutes until I decided it was best to see mum late on Sunday afternoon – and take the car.

I headed for Botley Hill, the fast way – I couldn't face Beddlestead Lane – and as I made my way along the 269 I realised that there was going to be a lot of fog. There was no point in risking my neck on the road – you didn't really expect me to have working lights, did you? – so I took the off-road path, risking a puncture (far less damaging).

The fog was real thick so I decided, upon reaching Botley Hill, to go back on the off-road path, rejoining the 269 at Ledgers Road and then riding non-stop through the green and down the Limpsfield Road towards home.

It's weird. Having not been on the bike for the past three weeks I was a little sluggish, especially coming up Church Way, but I'm back in the zone now, which is good. I was, however, grateful to find myself freewheeling down Church Way at the end of the ride, having passed the Sanderstead pond where there were people feeding the ducks.

The weather was wonderful. Yes, it was misty, but it was also mild and dry, arguably the best conditions for riding a bike. I'm a bit worried about whether I'll have a puncture when I next check the bike out tomorrow morning; it's rare taking the off-road track on not getting one, put it that way, but here's hoping.

The off-road track on the 269...
Andy's back tomorrow so we'll probably head for Tatsfield Village and break out the tea and biscuits. Today, while I'd packed the tea and the milk and the hot water I never bothered to drink it – tea is for sharing. I rode non-stop to Botley and back, circling the car park and heading home. I didn't see many other riders, although that might have been the fog's fault. A couple of people were out – Lycra Monkeys – but that was about it.

Weatherwise, it's been mild and right now it's sunny too. I'm hoping things will remain this way for the rest of the weekend and I'm pretty confident they will.

The bike's fine too. I'm keeping it clean and the chain oiled. The old Kona is still in the garage, but it needs fixing: a new bottom bracket, new block, possibly a new crank and definitely a new front brake and possibly two new tyres. It's certainly unroadworthy at this present time.

I'm glad that I forgot Andy was not going today as I would have slobbed about if I'd checked my phone. Instead, I got out there, I took a ride and it was very enjoyable.

The early part of the 269 just past Ledgers Road...

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Another weekend without cycling...

Not cycling for the past three weeks has been a little depressing, but only a little. I say that because two of the last three weeks have been 'no cycling' due to illness. Week one I was genuinely ill, week two I was recovering, but week three – this weekend – there's really no excuse, other than the weather. Yesterday was terrible. Bitterly cold and snowing and drizzling and generally not a good day to ride a bike. It would have been an 'abort' had Andy been in town. Unpleasant would sum it up best. So I didn't hit the tarmac and with Andy still out of the country, meaning little in the way of motivation, I left the bike in the garage. It's there now, bored and lonely.

The flip side of the coin is that a change is as good as a rest. For many years now I've been getting up at 0600hrs at the weekends, making tea, messing around on the computer and then hitting the morning air, riding to Warlingham Green and riding off towards Westerham or wherever our fancy takes us – these days normally Tatsfield Village as the old bus stop is still without seating. It's nice to just lie in bed, not get up after the news, listen to Something Understood all the way through (although I didn't do that this morning) and just take life easy, enjoy a leisurely breakfast. So I can't say the break from cycling has been all bad, although I do miss that energised feeling cycling provides me.
I think I used this shot to sell my Marin on ebay.
The weather today is slightly better than yesterday and they say it's going to get milder as the week progresses. Andy's back on the ride next week so normal service will be resumed.

It's weird to think that I haven't been in the saddle for the past three weeks, but it's true and the bike has been neglected. I think I might have checked it out last week (all was fine) but I haven't set food in the garage this weekend and I'm rather hoping the bike's not in there nursing a puncture. That's something I was thinking about the other day: since I've had my new Rockhopper Sport 29 I've not had a single puncture. There! I said it! Tempting fate or what? I hope not. I might have mentioned this before, but when I owned a Marin Bear Valley SE (Special Edition) I had the bike for 12 years and never once had a puncture. It was a good bike, although I should have changed the saddle. I reckon I'd still have it now, block brakes and all! I can't remember how many gears it had, probably 24 but it might have been 18, I don't know. Either way it was a good bike and the other week, when I Googled it, I noticed how other people feel the same way about it. I bought mine in 1992 and did many a sponsored ride on it: London to Brighton, London to Cambridge, London to Oxford (I think that was 'Pedal for Parrots') and a few rides to Redhill and back when I used to work there, not forgetting jaunts over this way too. I remember riding to Westerham and Botley Hill. And to think that it had straight forks without suspension, they were called Rock Star forks, but you know what? It did the job, and probably still is somewhere in the world.

Prior to the Marin, which cost me around £500 in 1992, I had an old Raleigh mountain bike, also with hard forks and block brakes, but the frame was too big – my fault entirely. It was one of those situations where the saddle was right down on the frame and I could just about get on the thing. Still, I managed to ride to Bognor on it once, it took all day and we ended up in a caff on the beach before riding into town and getting the train home. At least I think that's what we did, it was a long time ago. I remember it was me, Kev and Bill and probably another person, but it was the late eighties and I was living in Sutton. I don't remember riding that bike very often.

In the news...
The evening brought the BAFTAs where La La Land with Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone won all the big awards (five in total). There were, however, some interesting movies recognised, like Manchester on the Sea and I, Daniel Blake, which won Best British Film. It goes without saying that Trump and Brexit were referenced in acceptance speeches and that Stephen Fry, as always, likes to remind his audience that he's gay. Next up is the Oscars!

In the news is North Korea, which launched a new missile over the weekend, worrying Japan and South Korea. Tesco is taking 'immediate action' to check prices following a BBC investigation that found widespread overpricing. Adele won five Grammys.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

No sign of Andy...and snow is on the agenda

... and I suspect a spot of jet lag. Or rather I hope so because I'm sitting here in front of the lap top at 0745hrs having sent him a couple of texts to ascertain whether or not he's riding today and there's been no reply. He could be at the green, waiting for me in the cold, although somehow I don't think he is; I think he's in bed. Not that it matters. Outside it looks very cold. Not wet but cold, and there's a dusting of ice here and there. My iphone says its 1 degree Centigrade and there's a snowflake sign, which doesn't bode well. It's definitely not nice out there and I'm assuming that Andy, who's been used to some fine weather over in Jamaica these past few days has simply looked at his alarm clock and gone back to bed.

UK weather courtesy of the Daily Mirror
The worst case scenario, of course, is that his iphone has packed up or is out of power and he's getting ever more peeved as the seconds tick by and I'm not there. At this moment he could be riding back home wishing he'd not got out of bed. Let's hope not.

There has, however, been a marked lack of cycling these past three weeks. Last week I was still feeling the remnants of a nasty cold; the weekend before I was suffering from the cold and with Andy out of the country there was little in the way of motivation, although I know now that I would have aborted. Today, therefore, is the first day that we could have gone riding, although I'll admit now that I wasn't really in the mood. That's the trouble with not going cycling, it sets the tone and I find I get used to not going out, not pulling on the balaclava to fight off the cold. In many ways I'm glad Andy hasn't replied because it means I can stay in the warm and not venture outside.

My iphone now says that it's minus 1 degree centigrade outside and that snow is definitely on the cards. It snowed briefly yesterday afternoon in Redhill so I wouldn't be at all surprised. Looking ahead to the rest of the day there's snow, rain and cloudy weather ahead, the sort of conditions when it's best not to hit the air but remain indoors drinking tea. Things will warm up a little tomorrow when it's supposed to be 4 degrees Centigrade and cloudy (reasonably good weather for a ride).

We know what it's like to ride in the snow. While at first it's a novelty, it's a real case of giggles to grimaces when our faces freeze up and then we get a puncture. Our hands are so cold it makes fixing it almost impossible. In fact I remember a time when Andy was so cold that he lost his rag and rather than fix a puncture he almost slung his bike (the old Peugeot) into a ditch. In the end he settled for walking home accompanied by his bike. I remember how I found it mildly amusing until I discovered that I had a puncture too. If I recall, we both walked home, listening to that annoying sound a deflated tyre makes.

It's 0804hrs and there's no reply from Andy. All is still in the house and outside it's pretty quiet too.

In the news it's far from quiet, but it's still pretty much the same old shit. Trump has been trumped by US lawmakers and can't proceed with his planned immigration ban, there's a big crisis here in the UK with our National Health Service, there's a crisis in housing, we have a weak pound, thanks to Brexit, and, of course, there's Brexit, which is still the topic of the day in British politics.

And getting back to reality, it is snowing now, just a fine, drizzly snow that's likely to turn to rain, but had we gone out (and I'm still assuming Andy didn't) then we would have been wet and cold and not happy. Things should improve tomorrow.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

No cycling today, I couldn't face a soaking...

I can't even remember what the weather was like when I woke up yesterday morning. It was pretty much like it is today: cloudy, damp, puddles here and there and while I could have got up and gone out somewhere, probably an urban ride to mum's, I didn't, and I'm glad because it did rain, quite persistently at times, so I would definitely have got a soaking, something I'd like to avoid after last week's cold.

And talking of the cold, I still have it, hence not wanting to get wet. The cold has reached the best stage of all, that time when it becomes strongly evocative of the past for some reason. It's always the same. I'm feeling slightly stuffed up, but not ill, there's an occasional sneeze, but little cause to reach for the tissues and, not sure why, but I'm taken back somewhere, not sure where, but to a time gone by when, perhaps, I used to relax more, watch television and take things a little easier.

Burl Ives – fantastic!
Last week, at the height of the cold – streaming nose, a slight temperature, weariness – I spent the entire time indoors, watching episode after episode of Michael Portillo on a train on the Settle to Carlisle line followed by a western starring Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston, taking me further back to when I was a kid, sitting on the floor in front of the gas fire back home, a mini Bakewell tart and a cup of tea. Jean Symmons also starred. It was, of course, The Big Country and it seemed to go on all afternoon.

The week prior I'd had a sore throat. It only bothered me at night, but during the day seemingly disappeared and I was as ripe as rain, but then, last Saturday, the cold hit hard and I was out of action for the entire weekend. Today, Sunday, the weekend after, I'm still sniffing and I can't really taste what I eat (I hate that bit) so I'm going to use that as my reason for not riding; that and the fact that if I did get soaked I'd probably reinstate the cold and be ill for the whole of next week.

Outside it's still and cloudy, there has been rain, probably overnight, and it's highly likely to return. Yesterday I considered riding to Botley Hill or over to mum's, but when I looked outside at the birdbath all I could see was raindrops hitting the water. Today, right now, it's fairly dry, but I don't trust this sort of weather and would rather be fitter and happier next weekend, when Andy's back in the saddle.

So it's going to be another cosy weekend 'indoors' although I'm well enough to visit mum for some tea and cake later on, which is always nice. Between now and then, I'll chill out, watch Andrew Marr again, he's bound to be on, but having just switched the television on, Countryfile is still on and there's a rugged coastline with angry waves and a Radio One DJ talking about her Scottish upbringing, she's walking through an old salt house along the cliff edge, little villages with small harbours that, at one point, she said, were thriving. This is what I need, a bit of desolation, the sea and moody skies. I'm guessing that where she is is somewhere north of the border near Edinburgh. "I hope that I never take it for granted again," she said and I wished there was a whole programme of this person wandering around her old stomping ground.

There's a lot going on in the world at the moment and most of the issues are something to do with Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States. Alright, I'm not going to go on about it, but his immigration ban, which caused uproar last week, has been ruled unconstitutional. Trump plans to appeal, but right now those people he wanted to ban, temporarily, from the USA, are back, or on their way, and Trump ain't happy about it. He's also pretty pissed off with the Prime Minister of Australia who struck a deal with Barack Obama, which involved sending some 60,000 refugees to the USA. Trump must be SO angry! Not only has his immigration ban been halted, much to the delight of thousands of anti-Trump protesters around the world, but he's also about to take delivery of 60,000 refugees. He must be fuming with anger. It must be frustrating for him seeing his election promises to those who voted him in turning to dust.
Trump supporters get their message across...

A walk would be good and I might go and take a look at the bike, make sure it's alright. I know it's nice and clean, the chain is oiled and hopefully the tyres pumped up so it should be fine for next week's ride, assuming we're not going to get rain or snow. Blizzard conditions have been discussed by the newspapers, but there's no sign of it, not down here in the south at any rate. A colleague at work was talking about bitter winds in Huddersfield last week, but whether they're heading this way is anybody's guess.

I need to blow my nose so I'll say goodbye.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Separated at Birth....

Is it just me, or has anybody else noticed the similarity between Homer Simpson and the rapper Jay-Z?
Homer Simpson
For more Separated at Birth fun, click here! And here!