Sunday, 21 May 2017

Great weather and two rides – to Westerham and the Tatsfield Churchyard

Outside of Westerham on the ride home, Saturday 20 May 2017
When I opened my eyes I got a shock. It was light outside. I simply can't get used to the fact that summer has simply arrived unannounced. It seems like only yesterday that it was dark in the mornings and that slippers were needed as soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs. The sunlight was filtering through the curtains and I started to consider black-out drapes, like those found in Alaskan hotels during the summer months, making it possible to sleep in a place where there's only four hours of night time. I remember once sitting in the bar of the Anchorage Hilton at 2330hrs and it could have been 1100hrs instead.

It was Saturday morning, I remembered, and immediately recalled how last week at this exact time I was still three hours away from Heathrow Terminal Five in a jumbo jet, seat 32C, on a BA flight from Dallas Forth Worth.
Outside of Westerham on the way home, Saturday...
I hadn't been cycling for two weeks and was in desperate need of the exercise, so I jumped out of bed, changed into my riding gear (jodhpurs, red hunting jacket and knee-high, polished boots) and headed downstairs to make breakfast (two Weetabix, grapes, blueberries, banana and raspberries topped with some natural yoghurt. I also made myself a cup of tea – no sugar).

All week has been strained due to slowly fading jet lag, but I'm fine now and a decent ride on the bike is just what the doctor ordered.

I unpadlocked the bike and headed out along the usual route, meeting Andy at the green where we decided to ride to Westerham (a 22-mile round trip) where, we discovered, preparations were underway for a summer fair. A smallish group of people, including the local Rotary Club, were setting up display stands as Andy and I sipped tea and munched biscuits, our bikes resting against the park bench on which we were sitting.

Fortunately a horse arrived meaning no shots of gravestones. Pic: Andy Smith
We sat there until just before 0900hrs watching other people work and then mounted our bikes for the arduous journey up the hill. When we were back at the green we vowed to meet on Sunday, although we hadn't discussed the destination other than to say we might go to Westerham again (just like in the good old days) or even the trusty old Tatsfield churchyard, always a good sunny day destination.

On Saturday afternoon there was a bit of rain here and there, but nothing too depressing, and now, on Sunday morning at 0654hrs it is another bright day, just like yesterday. In fact it would be fair to say that this weekend has been the best in terms of the weather so far this year. I'm sure things will get even better as the summer progresses, but right now it's the best to date. In fact, today is the best day of all.

We met on the green at the usual time and decided to head for the Tatsfield Churchyard – the fast way. For some reason we couldn't face Beddlestead Lane. Andy was complaining of tiredness and there's little worse than the slow way to anywhere when you're feeling a little under the weather. We haven't been to the churchyard since 10 September last year (click here for more).

Last week Andy rode to the lakes...
When we arrived we talked about politics and the forthcoming election, we chatted about photography and social media and then set about taking photographs of a white horse grazing in an adjacent field before heading home again.

Ultimately the theme of our conversation was futility, which left us both feeling a little futile on the return journey. I was thinking about the sad inevitability of Theresa May being in Number 10 for the next five years and on top of that I was considering the world of social media and its futility, not to mention the futility of gardening, which I would be engaging in later in the day. The futility of gardening, however, is a little nonsensical, a bit like saying that shaving is futile. Yes, the grass grows back and so does the beard, but at least while you're keeping grass and stubble at bay there's a general tidiness about the situation. Unkempt grass and an unkempt beard don't exactly add up to anything positive and rather reflect neglect and apathy. A bit like my hair over the last week or two. After about eight weeks it gets a little straggly and I start to look like the Toecutter from the early Mad Max movies, but for some reason it takes me an age to get around to visiting the barber. I made it yesterday, however, and now I feel clean cut again and ready for what the world might throw at me.

Sunday's weather was bags better than Saturday's. For a start there was no rain, but there was also plenty of warm sunshine and it's still shining now at almost 7pm.

Our ride home retraced the outward route. We followed Clarks Lane towards Botley Hill and then turned right and rode straight down the 269 heading north towards Warlingham where we parted company. When I reached home I chilled for a bit, then had a shower and then went into the garden to mow the lawn. The original plan was to do both front and back, but a rogue sycamore tree had to be dealt with and after I'd cut it into pieces and placed it in the brown cart so kindly provided by the local council, my enthusiasm had waned.

A few words about the Specialized Rockhopper. It's now roughly six months old and while I'm tempting fate by saying I've yet to have a puncture, it's the truth. The bike's been performing well, but recently there's been a strange noise in top gear, not dissimilar to the noise made by a handful of small plastic bearings being shaken gently in a tin can. It's not affecting the performance of the bike so I'm not too bothered about it.

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