Sunday, 30 July 2017

To Westerham on Saturday and the Tatsfield Bus Stop on Sunday...

Saturday we got our heads down and rode to Westerham. It was one of those half-and-half days, meaning that the weather was good up until lunch time and then the drizzle arrived. We had a trouble-free ride there and back and parted company on the green with Andy saying he might not go on Sunday. "I'll send you a text," he said as he rode off towards Caterham and I made my way along the Limpsfield Road to Sanderstead.

As the weather forecasters had promised, the drizzle turned up around lunch time and was on and off for the rest of the day, making virtually anything to do with the outside world unpleasant. The only good news was that a wet lawn couldn't be mowed so I relaxed, safe in the knowledge that the mower would remain in the garage.

An archive shot of the Tatsfield Bus Stop.
There was more rain overnight, as evidenced by the puddle on next door's extension, but as there was no sign of raindrops, there was a good chance of a ride. That said, when I made my way downstairs at around 0600hrs it was very dark and foreboding outside and I didn't hold out much hope for a ride without rain. But then, just before 0700hrs it brightened up, the grey skies cleared and the sun came out as I rode up Church Way towards the Limpsfield Road and Warlingham Green.

We decided to head for the Tatsfield Bus Stop and along the way evidence of last night's rain was everywhere. The puddles on either side of the 269 were so large they almost touched one another. Like jagged mirrors they reflected the vertiginous depths of infinity, but on our return ride, no more than 45 minutes later, they were gone as the sun made short work of the drenched tarmac.

At the bus stop we reflected on many things: the price of tea, the rip-off culture of nouvelle cuisine, the nonsense of brand extensions, the pointlessness of expensive cars and the amount of large, overweight men riding bicycles. I wondered whether there might be a Friends of the Tatsfield Bus Stop movement in the village and, if so, whether they were complaining at church hall meetings about the mess left behind by cyclists 'using the facility'. I mentioned this as I stuffed the clear plastic wrapping from my BelVita biscuits in between the wooden struts that made up the bench on which we were sitting and then, after taking a wazz against the rear wall of the wooden shelter, zipped up and headed off in the direction of Botley Hill.

As we rode towards the pub a Lycra Monkey yelled, "On your right!" and then passed us with a cheery 'good morning'. We don't like MAMILS (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra Shorts aka Lycra Monkeys) but we let it pass. We had no alternative: within milliseconds of his passing he was out of sight and, of course, out of mind, checking his Strava and fretting about his pension plan.

We stopped for all of five minutes at Warlingham Green before heading for our respective homes and the looming prospect of a Monday morning heading our way.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Loads of cycling!

It was a busy weekend on the cycling front. First, a ride to the good old Tatsfield Bus Stop with Andy during which we narrowly avoided a soaking. The original plan had been to ride to Westerham for breakfast at the Tudor Rose, but the weather was looking decidedly dodgy so we opted for the safe option and rode to the bus stop instead.

All the way there – we decided to follow the slow route up Beddlestead Lane – there was the threat of  rain, but we remained dry. It was only while enjoying tea and biscuits under the cover of the wooden bus shelter that the rain started to fall. We watched it and waited and when the coast was clear, so to speak, we jumped on the bikes and headed for home, following the 269 into Warlingham where we parted company.

Andy wasn't riding on Sunday so I took the opportunity of riding over to Epsom to fix Bon's puncture. I left the house around 0726hrs (in fact, I definitely left the house at that time) and reached Epsom by 0818hrs, roughly 50 minutes later.
Woodmansterne Green, Sunday 23 July 2017

The ride to Epsom is fairly straightforward and involves riding the same route we use to reach Woodmansterne Green, but instead of turning left by the lavender fields on the outskirts of Carshalton I kept riding until I eventually arrived in Banstead where I continued straight towards what is known as the 'Mad Mile' (or rather the top of it). I then crossed the A217 and rode down towards what used to be the Drift Bridge Hotel (it's now flats) where I swung to the right, under the railway bridge and then immediately left. At the lights I turned right, then first left and soon I was a Bon's house.

Bon put the kettle on and for a short while we wandered around the garden, chatting about this and that before I reached for the leeches and got down to the business of fixing the puncture. Bon has a Cannondale with a roughly similar specification to my Specialized Rockhopper, but he had a rear wheel puncture. Fortunately, the Cannondale has quick-release wheels, which makes life easier, and soon the puncture was fixed.

Bon joined me on my return ride as far as Woodmansterne Green, taking me through the High Beeches housing estate and then along an off-road track that emerged close to Banstead railway station. We headed back over the A217 at the top of the aforementioned 'Mad Mile' and rode towards Longcroft Avenue, a right turn a mile further down the road. When we reached the green we stopped and chatted before Bon decided to head for home and I pushed on into Carshalton to see mum.

Unfortunately, my car had broken down on Saturday, stranding me temporarily in an Esso Garage in East Grinstead (new alternator needed). I still don't possess a car as I write this, which, in all honesty, is no bad thing, but not having a car at the weekend means it's difficult to get over to see mum unless I rely on the bike. So, being in Woodmansterne, I gave mum a call and around 20 minutes later there I was, eating cake and drinking tea and making small talk with mum. I left mum's around 1100hrs and made my home following the usual route. There's a nice stretch of off-road track along the road leading to the lavender fields so I used that and then found some more off-road tracks on what amounts to the Croydon Road towards Purely where I rejoined Foxley Lane and wound my way into Sanderstead where I tackled the South Face of West Hill.

Later in the day I went for brief ride around the block and I think I must have whacked myself out because I had the feeling of fidgety restlessness which used to be called 'over tiredness'. I had a strange hunger that persisted until the sun went down and I hit the sack early to avoid eating too much bread or breakfast cereal. You'll be appalled to note that on Sunday I ate four Shredded Wheat – two for breakfast and two for (ahem) 'dessert' after dinner.

While I had toyed with the idea of riding to work, the rain gave me an excuse to leave the bike in the garage and now I'm looking forward to next week's ride with Andy. Bon said we should both ride over to Woodmansterne again – he has a point!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

BBC salaries fiasco – and what a fiasco!

How terrible that some BBC presenters are getting paid ridiculous sums of money for jobs that are not in any way important in the greater scheme of things. How can it be right, for example, that Alex Jones and Claudia Winkleman are earning more than, say, a heart surgeon, or any surgeon for the that matter.
Winkleman

Now, before anybody gets on their high horse and starts berating me for not dealing with the bigger issue (that the lion's share of the big Beeb salaries are taken by male presenters) I don't want to get into the gender arguments; I just want to discuss the whole value equation because there must come a time when the sum of money paid becomes meaningless. Take yours truly, for example. If I was paid £500,000 per year based on my current lifestyle, there's no way I would get anywhere near to spending it all. I'd be able to save a good £400,000 per annum if not more because, let's face it, who really needs more than £100,000 per year? I get by on far less and I've got all the outgoings of most people: kids, mortgage, bills, the usual stuff.

My opinion is this: there are people, like Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, the big political journalists like Laura K, Nick Robinson, John Humphrys, Emily Maitlis, Kirsty Wark and so on who bring something special to the party. They know their stuff and can be called upon to give our politicians a good grilling when required. And there are, of course, other experts, people like Chris Packham, but outside of that, the big salaries for television presenters are obscene and shouldn't be paid. Not to somebody who is simply presenting a programme like The One Show or Strictly Come Dancing.

Look, I'm not saying that Alex Jones and Claudia Winkleman are doing a bad job, they're not. They are probably good at what they do, competent presenters, they've been trained up, they know what they're doing, but surely £450,000 to £500,000 per annum is simply too much for what they do.

The BBC could save a lot of money if they employed me to present The One Show. How much would I demand salary-wise? Well, let's say, at the top end, £100,000, but certainly no more, and I'd be happy to take a much lower starting salary, let's say £75,000 all in. But not just me, there must be people out there working in, say, regional television, that need a big break and would be prepared to do the job for far less. It simply can't be that difficult! Certainly not difficult enough to command a £500,000 salary. The One Show is basically a series of small reports by the likes of Gyles Brandreth, Dominic Littlewood and others, broken up by a live studio guest or two, somebody like Michael Palin, who might have a new book to publicise, and Baker and Jones make small talk in between the outside broadcasts from the aforementioned journalists. It's on for about 30 minutes tops and yes, I'm sure there's prep work to do during the day before the show airs (knowing the running order, knowing who the special guests are, working out some sensible questions to ask them) but that is not rocket science and if it was you can bet your bottom dollar that a rocket scientist is paid far, far less than Baker and Jones.

Alex Jones of One Show fame
In short, the BBC are wasting licence payers' money and I for one would love to know how they arrived at such big salaries for Winkleman and Jones and some of the others. I mean why did they pay Jonathan Ross around £6 million per annum and why are they paying Chris Evans a couple of million per year? He presents a radio show! He has enough money already! I'd love to present a radio show for two or three hours a day, but hey, no more than £100,000 per annum. Nobody needs more than that.

What was going through the minds of those charged with the task of deciding salaries? What formula was in play that enabled them to arrive, without flinching, at some of the salaries that were revealed last week? Somewhere, did somebody say, "Right, well I reckon £500,000 per annum would be a fair salary for Alex Jones, and as for that Winkleman woman, she can have the same – or thereabouts." And everybody in the room nodded affirmatively, somebody stamped a piece of paper and the rest is history.

As I write this I'm watching Would I Lie to You?. Winkleman is on David Mitchell's team and they've got to the bit where a live guest is invited on the programme and all the panellists make claims that they are in some way truly connected with the person. Winkleman says that the man standing to her left is her builder and he dropped round to Winkleman's house (which he built) because Winkleman thought he might be able to help her fix the television. The end game was that there was nothing wrong with the television – the remote needed new batteries, that was all. And this woman is earning the best part of half a million quid every year. It's incredible! Even if she earned HALF that amount it would still be too much.

And before anybody says that Winkleman isn't really stupid, she's got an Oxbridge degree, I know, I KNOW!!! But that's not the point. The point is that she (and Alex Jones and many others) are doing a job that simply doesn't command such a high salary. There are so many other professions that would command that sort of salary, but not television presenting.

One of these days there's going to be a revolution: corrupt politicians fiddling their expenses, journalists hacking the mobile phones of murdered school children, zero-hour contracts, the empty  promises of our political leaders, the list is growing and now we can add BBC television presenters – they're not corrupt (perhaps some are), but some of them are earning far too much for what they do. Somebody, sort it out! Think of the money that could be saved.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Two weeks out of the saddle – but I'm back!

Not good at all, but shit happens, don't forget, and sometimes you just have to get on with it; not that any shit happened, it was just a case of not being able to go and the usual stuff, such as waiting around for people or having to drive somewhere early in the morning.

Our bikes near a cornfield on the approach to Westerham hill
I didn't go out on Saturday morning, but on Sunday I met Andy at the green and we headed for Westerham. On leaving the house I noticed how out of condition I was as I struggled up Church Way, although I was alright, I just felt a degree or two worse than I normally feel when I tackle a hill. Hills are an inevitable part of cycling, of course they are, but they're still mildly annoying and even more so after a two-week break.

I made it to the top of the hill, crossed the Addington Road and cycled through the churchyard, emerging on the other side and riding past Sanderstead Pond and on to the Limpsfield Road where I shifted into top gear and set my sights on the green.

The weather was fine: not as sunny as past weeks, but warm enough to wear just a tee-shirt and not the paint-stained, blue hooded top that normally accompanies me.

Since we last met, Andy had riden from Caterham to Canterbury (see link on previous post) so we talked about this briefly before deciding to save our conversation for Westerham. It was a smooth ride all the way there and soon we were sitting on the green where I noticed there was a large horse – not a real one – that had made itself at home behind the statue of General Wolfe; it was there for charitable reasons and made for a surreal scene.

Andy took this shot of the horse...
Other than the horse, not much had changed at Westerham since our last visit, which wasn't that long ago. We sat there drinking tea and munching BelVitas (as always) and watching cars and bikes and fellow cyclists ride by on the A25. There was a bit of 'bike conversation' that I won't bore you with and soon we had no excuse other than to get back on the bikes and head for home – and that hill out of Westerham. But hills (or anything in life) are never as bad as you think they are and, as always, we made short work of the climb and found ourselves at Botley Hill.

The ride along the B269 was smooth and we stopped briefly on Warlingham Green to arrange next week's ride. Andy can only make Saturday next week so on Sunday I'll either head for mum's (where tea and cake awaits) or I'll head for Jon's where a puncture needs to be fixed.

Andy headed towards Caterham and I rode along the Limpsfield Road towards Sanderstead, sailing down Church Way and weaving my way around the quiet, leafy streets until I found myself opening the garage door, padlocking the bike and getting on with what was left of my weekend.

As I write this, at 0641hrs on Monday morning, the sun is out, there are blue skies and all is relatively still. Birds are chirping, I can hear a distant radio and all is well with the world. Film director George A Romero has died and so has the actor Martin Landau (aged 89).

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A weird dream, but no cycling...

Since I returned from Vienna on 28th June I haven't been out on the bike and I'm missing it. Last week I didn't go on Saturday because I'd been up late at a wedding and on Saturday night I had a late night too so I aborted. This week, well, similar in many ways. On Saturday morning I needed to be around at home to do things, like drive over to Kingston for a spot of shopping, and this morning I needed to be around. Alright, I could have gone out later, in fact that had been my plan, but, as always, when allowed to dither, I dither, and I didn't go out, not even an urban ride to mum's.

Andy rode to Godstone Green yesterday while I slobbed about...
Andy replied to one of my 'abort' texts with a question mark and now I'm left with that awful 'I haven't been cycling' feeling, which is made worse by the fact that it's now two (yes, two) consecutive weeks. To make matters worse, the weather is fantastic and has been for some time now. It was scorching hot in Vienna (where I managed to ride a bike for three consecutive days around the city) and it's hot here too. Outside now the skies are blue and it's beginning to brighten up having been a little dull early this morning.

Andy, incidentally, rode from Caterham to Canterbury last week and has written about his experiences on his blog. Click here for more.

Andy has cleaned both of his bikes, by the way
So I haven't been out on the bike, but I have had a strange dream. Last night (or whenever it was that I had the dream) I found myself in some kind of club, something like an ex-servicemen's club, not sure. It was large and roomy and unoccupied initially, although there was a sense that some rooms were occupied. There was a singer, somewhere, a modern singer, somebody contemporary, a woman, a girl, not sure, but while I didn't know who it was, others did, and when I caught sight of the girl I still had no idea who she was or whether I'd ever heard her music. It didn't matter.

While wandering around the largely empty club I sensed activity in one of the rooms and stumbled upon a group of crusty, ruddy-faced old war veterans wearing tweed jackets and cravats, smoking pipes and discussing an old military campaign. They filtered out of the room, chatting as they departed, but left behind a bag of archive magazines inside a thick plastic bag not dissimilar to those that contain garden compost. The bag had been ripped open in haste and inside I found many copies of a saddle-stitched publication about the Second World War peppered with colour photography throughout.

For me, time is pigeon-holed by photography. The dishwater years, as a friend of mine once described the 1950s, were characterised by black and white photography and so were the years that went before them. From the sixties onwards, colour photography took over, but in the real world everything is in colour as people have never lived in monochrome, even in the Stone Age, which somehow makes time seem less savage. I tried to explain this to an old friend in the dream, but we were distracted by an old college friend who sat alone in a quite corner of the club and was unaware of our presence. Neither of us wanted him to know we were there.

I woke up to the 0600hrs news on Radio Four followed by Something Understood on the subject of parochialism and remembered that my ears were jammed with wax after a swim at Waddon pool yesterday morning. I also remembered that I'd aborted the ride and wouldn't be hitting the road again until next weekend. Such is life, I thought, and went downstairs to make a cup of tea.