Saturday, 8 April 2017

Great weather prompts a ride to Westerham...

Time passes fast. It seems like only a week or two have passed since I walked home from work along Hayling Park Road in the dark, wearing a bright red beanie hat and a raincoat, wary of the icy pavement or, indeed, riding the bike wearing many layers, a scarf and balaclava.

March has just passed, we're in early April, the clocks have gone forward and already we have experienced summer-like conditions. Last night and all day yesterday we had blue skies, the buds on the trees are transforming themselves into green leaves, the blossoms are out and hedgerows give out a pleasant perfume.

Last night, at almost 1900hrs, the skies were still blue and both the sun and the moon were in the sky, the former shining brightly against the house fronts as I made my way home on foot.

General Wolfe casts a shadow in Westerham
People seem happier too and there are more of us on the streets. Old men pass the time of day with a comment about the weather and, when it comes to riding the bike, everything is pleasant. The roads are dry for a start, we can get away with wearing less clothes, although right now there is a kind of transitory period in progress when cold breezes can still catch us off guard, like last week as I rode along Essenden contemplating whether to return home for another jumper. But other than that, summer is rollercoastering its way towards us and that means pleasant rides and decent weather ahead.

I left the house around 0710hrs and headed for the green, but halfway along Ellenbridge I turned around: I'd forgotten a tennis racquet that I'd promised Andy for a photoshoot. I lost a few minutes, but soon I was back on the road.

Our bikes in Westerham, Saturday 8th April
Andy suggested Westerham, or I did, I can't remember, and we both hesitated, but eventually decided to take the plunge. My Specialized Rockhopper had yet to go there so that was good enough reason.

The weather was wonderful so we decided to get our heads down and save the chat for Westerham. I figured we'd arrive around 0830hrs, but when we eventually got there I forgot to check the time.

We rode along the 269 with relative ease, both bikes performing well, and soon we were passing Botley Hill and heading east along Clarks Lane towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop, which we soon passed and continued down hill. From Clarks Lane we could see a lot of mist below us, like clouds, and when we descended into the valley the temperature dropped considerably and we were both glad we hadn't yet opted for shorts and a tee-shirt. While April is a very optimistic month in terms of the weather – let's not forget that snow in 2008 – it's still packed with uncertainty especially where clothing is concerned. While scarves and balaclavas were left at home, we were still pretty sensibly dressed for any eventuality, like a sudden drop in temperature.

We sat at a wooden table behind the statue of General Wolfe and did what we always do: drink tea and munch on biscuits. We saw a few Morgan cars heading east on the A25 towards Brasted but otherwise Westerham this Saturday morning was quiet, sleepy almost, and certainly basking in a hazy spring sunshine.

Neither of us was looking forward to the hill leading us out of Westerham. We both knew that it continued all the way to Botley Hill, but, as always, like most things, it wasn't as bad as we expected it to be and soon we had passed the Surrey Hills totem pole and were heading towards the Tatsfield Bus Stop and Botley Hill. Andy said goodbye at the Ridge; he wouldn't be riding again until Easter Sunday.

Heading out of town and then up the hill...
I roared down the 269 towards Warlingham and then headed towards the green and soon I found myself in Sanderstead High Street. The bike was performing well or was it the weather that was making me feel good, probably a bit of both. I circumnavigated the pond and rode down Church Way, hanging a left on Morley and then a right on Elmfield, but I didn't take my usual left into Southcote. I continued along Elmfield and soon I was home, at 0957hrs. Not bad for a 22-mile round trip.

Feeling energised I spent most of the day in the garden, mowing the lawns front and back and sitting under the umbrella drinking tea and reading the papers.

In the news at the moment, Trump has fired off 59 (why not 50 or 60?) missiles and taken out an airbase in Syria. The suspicion is that Syria has been using chemical weapons again and unlike Obama, who pussy-footed around and did nothing, at least Trump, for all his faults, has taken decisive action and received the support of the international community, bar Russia and Iran, both allies of Syria.

There's been another terrorist incident, this time in Sweden: a lorry went on the rampage killing around four people in Stockholm, only weeks after something similar on Westminster bridge here in London using a rental car. It goes without saying that we're all getting a little fed up with it.

Lastly, Brexit. Theresa May has invoked Article 50 and we've now got a couple of years of watching the politicians mess up the economy as they struggle to get a 'deal' out of Europe. We all know they're going to get a bad deal. Why should they get a good one? Anyway, enough. The news is all very depressing and these days there's no media you can trust to tell the truth.

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