Sunday, 28 February 2016

His judgment cometh, and that right soon!*

There's nothing like a bit of perceived injustice to fuel a sleepless night. I awoke at 0300hrs and started compiling vitriolic emails in my head while getting more and more agitated... and more and more awake. I kept looking over at the clock as time crept by and while I considered an abort text to Andy, I knew that I had to go for a ride.

We don't have ceiling tiles otherwise I'd have been lying there working out the area in square feet, which always proves a problem when there are halves or quarter tiles involved. When I was an unruly teenager I spent many an early hour trying to work out the area of the ceiling tiles that dad had spent long hours sticking to the ceiling back in the 70s, but last night my ceiling was giving nothing away.

Mum's living room...
Whenever I have something fretful on my mind in the dead of night I'm told that I tend to put my left hand on my forehead; and sure enough I was doing that now as the time crept slowly round to 0330hrs. By 0449hrs, still unable to sleep, I got up and made myself two slices of toast and a cup of tea, not forgetting two Weetabix with hot milk. I sat in the living room doing nothing in the grim light, waiting for the clock to edge it's way around to 0700hrs when I would leave the house and head for Warlingham Green.

But it was not to be. Andy sent a text message aborting. He had a migraine. And with Phil not available all weekend it was down to me to motivate myself. I strongly considered not going out, but having aborted yesterday's ride due to an early Saturday morning commitment, I felt I had to get out there. The choice was simple: Tatsfield Bus Stop or mum's house. I opted for the latter and headed down West Hill towards the Upper Selsdon Road, hanging a left and riding the usual route, down Jarvis Road, across the Brighton Road, up the hill towards Pampisford Road, across the mini roundabout and then skirting around the housing estate with Purley Playing Fields on my left. I crossed the A23, cut left behind a few warehouses, emerged on the Stafford Road and then continued west towards mum's. I arrived around 0730hrs. The roads were deserted. There wasn't a soul around apart from a couple of people walking dogs.

The weather was fairly mild, but I was equipped for the cold and was wearing my green balaclava and beanie hat. I hate that phrase, 'beanie hat'. My hatred – although that's miles too strong a word – dates back to a woman from Norwich called Lindy who is probably dead now – she was a heroin addict. I have distant memories of her talking about a beanie hat in a strong Norfolk accent in a house in Thorp Road, Norwich, many years ago. In fact, my memory deceives me as she referred to the beanie hat as a 'Benny hat' after the famous Crossroads soap star of the time (the actor Paul Henry).

Mum answered the door and offered me breakfast, but I declined having already eaten Weetabix and toast – albeit at 0500hrs – but I did have a banana and opened up my own flask to make tea. Why waste perfectly decent hot water? I also opened a sachet of Duchy Original Organic tea, which I don't think is THAT good, but others like it so who am I to argue? It comes in boxes of 25 tagged teabags and I just know that we'll run-out in the middle of the week. Still, there you have it. In fact, talking about tea reminds me that there might be a digestive biscuit in the cupboard back home, but even if there is one, I shouldn't be considering it. And besides, where biscuits and chocolate and cake are concerned, I was at mum's. I could indulge at any time!

"I thought you were Jon," said mum.
"Does he come round early?" I asked.
"Sometimes, yes," she said, as I took my seat at the round pine table in what we've always referred to as 'the new room'. It's not new at all, it's been there for years and years.

Mum made her breakfast. Special K, sliced banana, sliced and peeled orange, but no milk, and sat there crunching away as I made short work of the banana.

We talked about all sorts of things, one subject being babies. Mum likes to talk about babies.
"You and Jon were very easy babies," she said, having swapped seats.
"What about Criss?" I enquired.
"Oh, no, she was difficult," said mum, referring to the birth.
"I wanted to have all my babies close together," she said, explaining how she once had three children under three on her hands.
"I remember when I brought Jon home. You and Criss were in the front room and Jon had toys for you both under his shawl," said mum with a smile.
"That was my first ever memory," I told her. Jon had brought me a toy train, a steam locomotive. I was three years old.

It's Jon's birthday next week on 1st March. At the moment he's four years my junior but on Tuesday it narrows down to three years. I'm the oldest.

"How old is Jon?" asked mum.
"Fifty five," I said.
"I got married in 1955."
"And three years later I came along."
We laughed at the thought.
"You were a very good baby," mum told me and I smiled. There was a moment of silence.

"Women have babies much later these days," I said, but mum had moved on to discuss her 'courting' days and how she and dad both worked in Croydon at one point.

"He used to come into Kennards to buy a tie – it was just an excuse to see me," said mum, warming to the memory. "He had quite a few ties," she added with a giggle.

Mum recently had a cataract removed from her left eye and will be going back soon to have the other one done. Like most things, she took it in her stride. It all went smoothly and now she simply has to put drops in for a while. She claims she can now read 'her book' without the need for glasses, which is good news. We talked for a bit about the pills she is taking, nothing too major, and moved on to the health benefits of cider vinegar. "It unclogs the arteries," she said. "Get some, Math."

My mum calls me 'Math' and so did my dad. Oddly I was never any good at maths.

"I used to take a lot of vitamins: zinc, selenium and cod liver oil with multi-vitamins," I said.
"Well, that's good, Math; you should get some more."
"I might," I said.
I haven't taken any vitamins for about three or four years and I can't say I feel any different. That said, I used to feel so alive whereas these days I'm always a little weary. Perhaps I'll start taking them again and see if I perk up.

"Can I use the facilities?" I asked mum. The 'facilities' being the bathroom. I didn't need to ask.

When I reached the bathroom, which has changed since I last lived there, I was reminded of my adolescent years when regular visits to this space were often accompanied by many a Skipper's Tablecloth. Looking at the airing cupboard door, which has remained in the same place, I wondered whether my copy of Susan Strong's Exclusive was still wedged behind the lagged copper cylinder. I wonder, I thought, rubbing my stubbly chin with cosy apprehension. But of course it wasn't there and I didn't bother looking, although the thought of finding it was quite funny. I might well have knocked one out just for the sheer fucky offiness of it.

Back downstairs I found mum in the kitchen. There's always a gas ring burning. "It keeps the house warm," mum says whenever anybody mentions it. It must cost a bomb too, I thought, but said nothing as that gas ring has been burning through the winter months for many years and mum ain't destitute yet.

"What are your plans for the day?" she asked.
"Er, not sure," I said. I always say that because in truth we don't often do a great deal. "Might take a drive later on." And we did, to Westerham.
"Where's that place you used to go to. Petersham?"
"You mean Petworth?"
"Yes, that's it, Petworth."
"We went there a few weeks ago. You'd like it, lots of antique shops," I said.
"Sounds lovely," she replied.
There was a moment's silence, which was broken by yours truly.
"Right, well, I'd better be going," I said, looking at the clock on the wall and then standing up and readying myself to leave.

For old time's sake, I rode down to the bottom of the cul-de-sac where my old pals Nigel and Tim used to live and then, as I rode past mum's house I waved to her. The ride back was roughly the same as the ride out. The traffic had picked up slightly, but was still relatively sparse and soon I was home and ready to face the rest of the day.

* Sign in Warden Newton's office in the Shawshank Redemption.



Sunday, 21 February 2016

The slow way AND the fast way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop AND two new people join the ride!

It's not so much a 'first' – that was when Phil joined NVL a couple of years ago (has it really been that long?). In that sense, it's a 'second', but yesterday (Saturday) two new people came on the ride. It was Phil's work colleague who had been considering riding with us and finally did, along with his son.

Steve and Josh joined Phil and I for a ride. We rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop. The weather was good as we cycled along the Limpsfield Road, past Warlingham Sainsbury's and then hung a left into Ledgers Road (off of the 269) and then a right on to Washpond Road (or Washpond Lane, I can't recall). We rolled gently down Hesiers Hill and along the tedious and lonely Beddlestead Lane towards the now legendary Tatsfield Bus Stop.
Phil, Matt and Steve, Tatsfield Bus Stop, 20 February 2016

Steve works with Phil – or rather for the same company, but he spends most of his week in Paris. His son Josh is at Durham University, studying maths and physics, and is on his way to becoming a pro-cyclist. In July he's going to Italy to brush up on his cycling and from there he could find himself riding in a professional team.

When we reached Ledgers Road, Josh carried on along the 269. We next saw him on Beddlestead Lane travelling in the opposite direction and, we were told, he would later go out on a longer ride with a pal. Comparing the sort of riding undertaken by Steve and Josh to ours is like comparing chalk and cheese. We ride out, we eat biscuits, sometimes cake and pies and we drink tea and engage in inane conversation. Steve and Josh are a little more serious about their cycling. They keep their weight to a minimum, they care about precious grams, whereas we load up with weighty cannisters of hot water and steer clear of the Lycra. Our pace was much slower too, but as Steve said, it's not about speed, it's about getting out there and doing it and he was right.

I admitted – as I tend to now and then – that my Kona Scrap was completely inappropriate for the sort of riding we do, and Steve suggested that I consider a cyclo-cross bike. Not a bad idea and perhaps I will look at what's available when I decide – should I ever decide – to buy a new bike. The Kona Scrap is 10 years old in May. Isn't that amazing? Ten years old and not a cross word! But I still like it; it just needs a jolly good service so that the gears and brakes all work. I'm guilty of riding a bike that only has half of its 16 gears in working order and only a rear brake in action. I don't even think there are any brake pads up front. Cycle King claims that it will strip the bike down to the frame and fix the gears and brakes for under £100. Not a bad deal and I might well take them up on it next week, let's see how things go.

On the 269 – courtesy of Andy's on-board camera
As we rode along Beddlestead Lane, Steve got a puncture and Phil almost came a cropper. He rode through thick mud and temporarily lost control, but somehow – God knows how – he managed to stay on the bike. You know when things go into slow motion? It was like that as both Steve and I watched aghast as Phil grappled with his own dignity in an effort to keep himself afloat, so to speak.

Puncture fixed we rode the last few yards to the Bus Stop where the tea and Tracker bars were produced. Steve refrained from the latter but enjoyed a mug of tea and, as usual, we sat there chatting for about a half an hour before the photograph above was taken on Phil's iphone and we headed home.

Sunday – the fast way to the Tatsfield Bus Stop
This morning's Something Understood on Radio Four was all about repetition. I said 'this morning's Something Understood on Radio Four was all about repetition, but I couldn't hang around. I got up, made some breakfast, the same breakfast I had yesterday morning (Weetabix, two Weetabix, with cold milk, blueberries and sliced banana). I also had two slices of toast, one with butter, one with margarine (the butter ran out) and a cup of tea.

No Phil today, just Andy and I. It had clearly been raining overnight as the roads were wet and there were roadside puddles lining the 269 as we headed south towards Botley Hill. The skies were greyer than yesterday and there was every likelihood of more rain. We met at the Green and headed off in the usual direction. By the time we reached the bus stop a thick had fog drifted in, disappeared and then returned again. It was a bit like John Carpenter's The Fog (now there's a good movie).
At the Tatsfield Bus Stop, Sunday 21 February

Andy's bike had been in the repair shop. It now sported new "Black Shark" tyres and a gel saddle and once again I found myself thinking that I ought to sort my bike out sooner rather than later. I remarked that my front tyre was about nine years old. Unbelievable! We chatted about 'bike stuff' and the fact that my old Marin served me well – 12 years without a single puncture, but then I wasn't using it that regularly. We discussed cyclocross bikes, based on my conversation yesterday with Steve, and Andy's Black Shark tyres. Why were they called Black Shark? Simple: to appeal to 'blokes'. A woman wouldn't buy Black Shark tyres – or not intentionally at any rate. But then, Andy didn't buy them intentionally either, so what the hell am I talking about?

As always there was a few Lycra monkeys who rode by en route to some distant location. Various cars passed us by too, and the drivers and/or the passengers always looked over at us. I'm sure they wonder what the hell we're doing there drinking tea and eating biscuits. All we need is a table and we could recreate a Jack Venttriano painting.

I got back home around 1000hrs and watched a bit of Andrew Marr. The referendum on Europe will take place on 23 June and David Cameron was on the box – after a good night's sleep – putting the case for remaining in the EU, while Farage preceded him putting the case for 'Brexit'. I don't know which way to go and I need more information before I vote. Cameron made some good points, but I'm sure the out campaign will make some equally good points too. Boris Johnson – or 'BoJo' as he's now been christened by the media – Michael Gove, George Galloway, Chris Grayling and others will be putting the case for so-called 'Brexit'.

Arriving at the bus stop, courtesy of Andy's on-board camera
Right now it's 1139hrs and all is well. Everybody in the house is chilling, giving me time to write this blogpost in peace. Spaghetti bolognaise for lunch – I cooked it last night – which makes a change, and then a free afternoon. Tonight, the final episode of Dickensian. I can't wait. And then it's more TV, then bed and then... work!

Later...
Car problems: the old Toyota has decided to play up (for the first time, it must be said). The driver's door is permanently locked, meaning that the driver has to clamber into position via the offside front door. I drove it over to mum's via the Toyota dealership this afternoon and was told to bring it back in the morning at 0800hrs.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A few thoughts on Facebook...

Oi! Facebook! No!
I've always said that I would never sign up to Facebook. I simply couldn't see the point. But now I've done just that: I've signed up to Facebook. Why? You might well ask! Well, it's simple. I'd just finished reading Bill Bryson's excellent book, The Road to Little Dribbling – more notes from a small island, and I noticed, having accessed Bill's website, that he runs a Facebook page. I thought I'd sign up and let him know a couple of things: one that I'd penned a small post on wooden bus stops; and two that I really enjoy his writing and even quoted him in a recent leader article I wrote for a global magazine. I think I thought – wrongly – that he might read the blog, check out some of the funny features and get in touch for a chat (in the same way that Bryson often wishes somebody would recognise him in the street). Anyway, he never got in touch and, in all honesty, I didn't expect him to, but now I'm on Facebook, I'm on it. There's been some plus points.

After many years of wondering about a dear old pal of mine, somebody I used to work with in what was then called Shinner's in Sutton – now Allder's, although I think Allder's has gone too – I found him on Facebook. One of these days we'll meet up. He lives in Wallsend, but the opportunity will arise and I look forward to it. The last time I saw my old pal Joe I was still in my teens.

But outside of re-establishing contact with Joe (and a few others) and linking up with existing pals, like my fellow cyclist Andy Smith and Dave (our pal with a Harley, who Phil bought his bike from), it's been a strange experience.

I've only been on there for about a fortnight and I've limited myself to making wise guy comments against things others have posted and occasionally posting something myself, normally promoting this blog. I've even set up a special page for No Visible Lycra, not that it's doing the blog any good. But then I often feel that way about social media, that it doesn't really 'do' anything. And that always leads me to wonder what the hell does it achieve? A lot of people embrace social media and conduct their entire lives on it – or so it seems. Others (I'm guessing) create a reality that doesn't really exist; they put across a version of themselves that, perhaps, is unreal – and there's something sad about that. They want to create some kind of artificial life for themselves, something that portrays them in a certain, more positive light, a better light, perhaps, than the awful reality.

There are people that appear to be on Facebook 24/7. Why? Haven't they got something better to do? Probably not.

I quite like following some of the radicals, like Anonymous, who regularly have something to say about something or other. I occasionally have something to say too. But I'm still wondering about the whole thing and I'm seriously considering closing down my account because there is something addictive about it and I feel drawn towards logging on every morning and at night. I like making inane comments against other people's posts. Today, I was going to make a joke about Agent Orange – something along the lines of 'wasn't he in Take That?' – but I decided that it was the wrong subject to make jokes about and so I refrained. Instead I wrote something a little more intelligent.

I'm still considering calling it a day, but for now I'm rather enjoying linking up with people, albeit fleetingly, and a long way from that much better form of communication – face-to-face contact.

The worrying thing about Facebook (and other forms of social media) is that it lulls you into a false sense of security, a bit like so-called 'fly-on-the-wall documentaries'. You forget that the 'cameras' are there watching you (and the authorities) and eventually throw caution to the wind and start saying outspoken things – and that, of course, is when you're judged by your peers and 'those in charge'. Expect a knock on the door in the early hours.

Recently I wrote a blogpost here on No Visible Lycra about how insular everybody was becoming. I moaned about how people kept in touch on Facebook and I still feel kind of odd, almost hypocritical, about having my own Facebook account. On another level I feel kind of stupid too. Kind of annoyed with myself for weakening. I blame Bill Bryson. Well, you've got to blame somebody, haven't you?

Postscript: 24 February 2016: This evening at around 1930hrs I deleted my Facebook account – it's too boring.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

On a wing and a prayer...

... was the subject of this morning's Something Understood on Radio Four, but my normal, enjoyably slow wake-up process, which involves listening first to the news and then to the first five minutes of the aforementioned Something Understood, was ruined this morning. There's nothing worse than when routine is broken. Normally the radio springs to life at 0600hrs just in time for the pips, followed by the news. But not this morning. The alarm went off, which itself was a stroke of luck as I recall checking the volume switch last night and finding it had been turned down to complete silence. Had I not noticed this the radio would have come on, but I would not have heard it. But it wasn't the news I could hear. Oh no, it was white noise, because whoever had turned down the volume the day before had also been fiddling with the tuner. For a few minutes I tried (in vain) to find Radio Four, but I was still sleepy and it proved impossible. No dreamy start for me this morning, I thought, deciding there and then to get out of bed and get ready for the ride.

Library shot of the Tatsfield Bus Stop
Problem number two. Yesterday I had put various items of my 'cycling kit' on the radiators to dry – there was a dribbling of rain yesterday, but nothing to write home about – but they had gone, which meant disturbing my wife's sleep to ask her, in a whisper, of course, where they might be. Sure enough they were on top of the wardrobe (they must have dried off). But where, pray, were the waterproof trousers I had left downstairs in the conservatory? I thought I'd better ask because I knew that if I went downstairs they wouldn't be where I'd left them. Remember, it's pitch black at 0600hrs and my iphone was downstairs. There was, however, a Maglite at hand and, after a fashion I found the waterproofs. I then had to shake a sock out of a pair of corduroys I'd been wearing yesterday and finally, I was ready to rock. And by 'rock' I mean go downstairs and make some tea and toast.

Is it just me or are clock radios a law unto themselves? Sometimes it's impossible to switch them off and, because a clock radio is invariably used as an alarm clock – and, therefore, is often found in the bedroom – the whole process of shutting the blasted thing down gets a bit frantic. This, I fear, is what must have happened yesterday morning while I was out cycling. Our clock radio (and I'm sure all clock radios) can be switched off by tapping a button, but it mysteriously switches itself back on at intervals and sometimes stubbornly refuses to be silenced. It leads, pretty quickly, to bad-temper and the pushing and turning of any available button or dial to keep the thing quiet. The end result, however, is that the clock radio will always get its own back, as it did this morning, with me, when I awoke to nothing but so-called 'white noise'.

Yesterday, I mentioned dieting and I must say that Saturday was characterised by restraint in this respect. First, unlike at work, the temptation of cakes and biscuits was absent, although there were some bite-sized chocolate cakes from M&S in the house, and I admit I treated myself to two of them, but, as I think I said in yesterday's post, I can eat frugally at home and Saturday was no exception. A cheese sandwich for lunch and cottage pie for dinner, no wine, just water, and nothing for dessert.

Incidentally, it's light outside now and it's not even 0700hrs yet. Mum said yesterday afternoon that it gets light at a quarter to seven and that's fine by me. Everyone in the UK waits for summer and while it's still only February, the fact that it's getting lighter in the mornings can only mean we're heading in the right direction.

The faffing around continued and eventually I sent Andy a text informing that I would be nine minutes later than usual.

The weather today was much improved on yesterday. There was a bluey-grey sky against which bare trees were silhouetted and still. As I rode along Ellenbridge I stood up on the bike, swinging it from side-to-side and then, as I climbed Elmfield Way I slalomed the front wheel like a downhill skier until I reached Morley. There was no wind, not even the slightest breeze, and when I reached the green Andy was waiting. We headed off without discussing our final destination, but I think we both knew it would be the Tatsfield bus stop and sure enough, as we edged our way along the 269 we both agreed.

I had some of mum's Christmas cake, but unfortunately I'd left it behind in the fridge, but only realised it around 1130hrs, a good two hours after getting home.

The weather remained fantastic. We eventually parted at Warlingham Green. I continued along the Limpsfield Road, into Sanderstead High Street and down Church Way towards my house, while Andy made his way home to Caterham.

Quote of the ride: "I don't really give a stuff about cars – that's why I drive a Toyota Corolla."


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Thoughts on dieting followed by a ride to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (for sausage sarnies)

It's Saturday morning, 0634hrs, and I'm up, dressed and drinking tea, black tea with milk, sitting in the living room and working on the lap top. When I say 'working', I'm sitting here writing what you are reading waiting for the moment, in about 25 minutes, when I have to get up, put on some waterproof trousers and head outside to retrieve the bike from the garage. I'm hoping the rain will stay in the far north and the south west, as predicted by the weather forecaster on Radio Four, but there's always a chance of a rain shower.

Andy's not going, but Phil is, which means there could be sausage sandwiches. That said my 'diet' has been slacking considerably, mainly due to cakes, it has to be said, and it's got to stop as I've put on a bit of weight and I'm determined to lose it again. So far today I've had a small slice of fruit loaf and a cup of tea. In a way I'm rather hoping there aren't any sausage sandwiches, but I'll make the exception today if they materialise and then push ahead with a dietary plan again from after the ride. The key thing is not to eat between meals and by that I mean cakes and biscuits. I did pretty well last week – one cookie yesterday accompanied by some bite-sized German stollen cake; on Thursday I had one mini chocolate cake and a couple of very small white chocolate Hershey bars, and at weekends I tend to be alright, although at home I've noticed that my portion sizes are huge where food is concerned, mainly because I make too much and live with people who eat like rabbits. I don't like waste either so I end up having second helpings. The other problem is I get so hungry.

Bikes at the bus stop, Saturday 13th February 2016
During the working week the plan should be simple: lay off eating between meals, stop eating and drinking anything with the letter 'b' in the title: bread, biscuits, buns, beer. To be fair to myself, I haven't had a beer for about a week – and even then it was only a pint in isolation as I rarely drink. Last night I had a small glass of wine with a meal (chicken risotto) and, as I've already said, a slice of fruit loaf this morning. This is, of course, all about discipline at the end of the day (well, at any time of day to be honest). It's having the willpower not to eat cake, not to eat biscuits and only to eat normal portions of food back at home. That way, hopefully, I can get back to that magical 12 stone, which last time took me about a month or two to lose. Oh, I've had a banana today too, but that doesn't count. In fact there's no limitation on the amount of fruit I can eat, that's another rule I've made, although I'm told that bananas put on weight and if I'm honest with myself, I'm getting a bit fed up with them anyway. I do eat an apple day.

My general diet, if you exclude the cakes and biscuits, which quite obviously I haven't been doing, is as follows: breakfast is a bowl of cereal OR porridge, a cup of tea and a slice of toast. The problem here is that I've increased this slightly. Sometimes I have a boiled egg and fingers too, which means I've eaten a slice of bread. I'm trying to keep my bread intake down and when I started this diet before (early 2014) I limited myself to just two slices of bread per day (down from about 10 slices). Yes, 10 slices! I can eat bread for England, believe me. I love the stuff. But my low bread intake quickly, well, not quickly, recently, picked up. With a boiled egg you need fingers, then I'd make a sandwich (two more slices of bread, making three) and then when I reach home after a day at work, another slice with some Marmite before dinner. So that's what, four slices of bread? Sometimes five as I've taken to a slice of toast for breakfast too. It's all got to stop and the fact that I've put on weight kind of pisses me off – big time.

On the plus side, though, there's the cycling and there's the walking. During the week myself and a couple of colleagues walk about 5km around the streets of Redhill and Reigate. I have my sandwich at noon and then, an hour later, off we go, returning to the office at 2pm, or thereabouts, for the afternoon slog – the slog being a mixture of trying not to eat shit (invariably it's somebody's birthday and the rule is they bring in cakes). It's also a slog trying to ward off the hunger, which translates itself into weariness. At work I'm also drinking less black tea. In fact I tend only to have one cup a day, the rest being lemon and ginger tea (Twinings, but in all honesty, the best variety comes from Aldi or Lidl, I'm not sure which, and is called Knightsbridge. You get 40 bags, not 20, and they're far better value. The trouble is there's no discount store nearby, which is a shame as I'd be in there regularly buying the Knightsbridge brand.

Phil was waiting on my drive around 0700hrs and we set off towards Warlingham Green, not expecting to see Andy, but half hoping to see Phil's so far elusive work colleague who supposedly lives nearby and has expressed an interest in joining us for a ride. So far, he's not shown up and he didn't show today either. Phil had made three sausage sandwiches, meaning that if this elusive guy doesn't turn up there will be an extra sarnie going begging. I told Phil that today was my last ever sausage sandwich. I explained how I'd lapsed a little on the dietary front and that sausage sandwiches were on my hit list. I'd have one today, but no more afterwards and I certainly wouldn't be munching on Phil's elusive cycling partner's abandoned sandwich.

We rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop and sat there doing what we always do: eating something and sipping tea. Neither of us own a teaspoon (that's Andy's department for some reason) so we couldn't flick our teabags with any power. Instead, we 'lobbed' them gingerly using our bare hands and they landed a couple of feet away from where we were sitting. There were no BelVita biscuits either, because they're Andy's department too, but with a sausage sandwich, what else do you need? Our chat revolved around work and corporate life and during the conversation there were police cars and paramedics, winging their way towards us and racing along Clarks Lane towards what we guessed was some kind of accident. I figured it might involve cyclists going down Westerham Hill and a car travelling in the opposite direction, but I couldn't be sure. 

Phil complained about the cold, but it was pretty mild. I'd expected rain, but it was dry and cloudy and grey and not in the slightest bit cold. There wasn't any frost on the ground, put it that way, but Phil tends to suffer in the cold, despite the gloves he was wearing. It got so bad, he said, as we reached Sanderstead Pond, that he almost feel sick. The cold clearly doesn't affect me as I felt fine and besides, it wasn't that cold. We sailed down Church Way heading in a homeward direction.

Phil won't be riding tomorrow, but Andy will be – and so will I. The weathermen predict that tomorrow will be better than today – a sentiment echoed by John Kerry who, when I arrived home, was on television speaking live to world leaders about Syria at a security conference in Munich.

It's now 1207hrs and that sausage sandwich this morning has meant that I'm not particularly hungry. Let's say it was 'breakfast'. I feel better that way. My breakfast was a sausage sandwich and now lunch beckons. Between the two meal occasions I've had a banana and a pint of water. Equally, I'm not champing (or chomping) at the bit to eat, but I'll probably have something soon. I'd better sign out of here and do something more constructive. I'm amazed that I'm still able to sit here blogging in the living room, my family around me; they are the sternest critics of this blog, meaning they hate it with a vengeance.

It was a good ride. Around 15 miles in total and it started to drizzle a bit at the very end. Perhaps Andy and I will ride to Westerham tomorrow, who knows?

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Last minute change of plan means we head for the Tatsfield Bus Stop...

I often wonder if there's any end to my cockery. How foolish am I? Talk about 'engage brain before opening mouth'. Yesterday, having returned from a windy, rainy, damp ride to Westerham – see previous post – I ventured the opinion that waterproof clothing was a load of old tosh. Not waterproof in other words. I explained – to anybody who would listen – that I'd been on a wet and rainy ride wearing my waterproof clothing and that when I peeled off the trousers and my stylish Peter Storm, hooded top, the clothes underneath were still wet.

The Tatsfield Bus Stop, Sunday7 February 2016
Well, today I went out in the same waterproofs and there was no rain – we rode to the Tatsfield Bus Stop (of which, more later). When I say 'we' I mean Phil and Andy and yours truly. We met at the usual place (Warlingham Green) and off we went, initially with the idea of riding to Westerham again, but Andy changed his mind and we stopped at the Tatsfield Bus Stop. But I digress. Let's get back to those waterproofs. So it wasn't raining. It was, in fact, a wonderful morning. Yes there was a few puddles left behind from overnight rain, but the skies were bright and blue, the temperature fairly mild and it was, in so many ways, perfect cycling weather.

When I reached home I took off the waterproof trousers and, lo and behold, the trousers I was wearing underneath – an old pair of brown Donnay gym trousers that had not only seen better days, but were splattered with white gloss paint from the olden days when I embraced decorating – were wet. How could this be? Not only was I wearing waterproof outer trousers, but also... it wasn't raining. And then, of course, it struck me. The dampness wasn't rain. How could it be? It was sweat. As I said earlier, there clearly is no limit to my general cockery.

Later in the day I remembered how I'd buggered up my daughter's bike while trying to fix it, so today I free-wheeled down to Cycle King, arguably the best bike shop in the Croydon area, to get it sorted. The bike was given a brakes service for under £15.00 and then I walked home with the bike and a small amount of shopping – Lurpak and some hot chocolate. I know how to live!

Andy, Phil and yours truly at the famous bus stop
Earlier in the day we'd ridden to the Tatsfield Bus Stop. It was a good ride as the weather was much improved on Saturday's rain and wind – and still very mild. The daffodils are already out and have been for a week or two.

Phil was waiting outside my front door around 0700hrs and we rode to the Green where we met Andy and headed south towards, well, initially Westerham, but then the Tatsfield Bus Stop. But you know all this as I've mentioned it earlier. We chatted about all sorts of things, one subject being push bikes powered by electric motors. Why? Surely they defeat the object – of getting some exercise.

Phil's sausage sarnies were simply the best (as always) and so were Andy's chocolate-flavoured Bel Vita biscuits. My Taste the Difference tea from Sainsbury's provided liquid refreshment and soon it was time to head home.

It was a clear day and at one point, riding along the 269, we could see the whole of Central London laid out in front of us. Andy said goodbye at Warlingham Green and Phil and I continued along the Limpsfield Road towards Sanderstead. We coasted down Church Way and then went our own way.

Andy's not going Saturday, but I'll be there and so will Phil. Andy's considering Westerham for next Sunday, which is fine by me.

Photography: both shots accompanying this post taken by Phil.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

To Westerham in the wind and rain...

Up with the lark and ready to ride. I listened to the news on radio four and then jumped out of bed and made my way to the kitchen where the kettle was filled with water and switched on; toast was placed in the toaster and milk in the saucepan – for the Shredded Wheat.

But there was rain. Well, drizzle, like a fine spray, but it didn't matter because it was warm outside. Waterproof clothing. Hmmm...you know when somebody refers to something as 'bombproof'? Never believe them. Because anything with the word 'proof' after it is some kind of lie. I'm sure that anything described as 'bomb proof' would be blown to smithereens if somebody actually attached (and ignited) a bomb on it.

In a slightly different vein, 'stay press' anything invariably isn't; Anchor spreadable? Not always and if something is billed as waterproof – expect a soaking.
We sent this shot to Phil

I rode towards Church Way, in full waterproofs, in the wind and rain, and within a few minutes of leaving the house I was shiny. I felt and looked like the skipper of a North Sea trawler – somebody more than capable of pulling up a chair at the Skipper's Table – and, as I made slow progress up Church Way, the wind seemingly blowing me back down the street, I got wetter and wetter. The only reason I wasn't too bothered was because it was mild, not cold, and the truth of the matter was quite simple to understand: while I was certainly getting wet, the best word – or phrase – to describe it was probably 'a little damp'. Later, when I reached home (at 1010hrs) and peeled off the waterproofs, I had damp trousers underneath, but they weren't wet. Well, alright, they were wet, but I wasn't soaked through is what I'm saying.

Andy was waiting for me at the Green and when he mentioned Westerham – following on from a Facebook comment by yours truly pointing to the fact that I'd been eating too many cakes and biscuits during the week – I admit that I was astonished. Westerham? The northern Kent market town? I couldn't remember the last time we rode there. Andy reckoned it was about a year ago and I've yet to check the exact date. He's probably right.

We decided to get our heads down and ride along the 269, past Botley Hill, past the Tatsfield Bus Stop and down the hill into Westerham. The wind and rain continued, but it wasn't too bad. The rain was still little more than a fine drizzle and the worst thing was the wind. Eventually the rain eased off. We passed a jogger who was travelling in the opposite direction. "At least I'm going this way," she remarked cheerily, alluding to the fact that she had a tailwind while we had to endure a full-on headwind. "We'll have a headwind coming back too," said Andy cynically as we pushed on.

Some people really are slovenly. What idiot, I wondered, had spilt brightly-coloured Dulux paint not only at intervals along the 269, but also further along Clarks Lane as we made our descent into Westerham. How long that paint will be splattered on the 269's cycle lane and Clarks Lane is anybody's guess, but it looks a right mess and it ruins the look of the countryside.

Westerham hadn't changed a bit. The Costa Coffee had its windows boarded up and was closed after the accident over Christmas. Avid readers might recall that a car careened out of control off of the road and through a window of the coffee retail outlet, injuring many and killing an old lady of 70 years old. We noticed a few bunches of flowers left outside as we made our way past, heading in the direction of Churchill's statue on the green.

Everything was wet and there was nowhere to sit down so we stood there, drinking tea and munching Belvita biscuits. And yes, you did hear correctly, I've signed up to Facebook under my real name – Matthew Moggridge – where I've also set up a NoVisibleLycra page. But why I bothered I'll never know. Social media, as I've said many times before, is a complete and utter waste of time. I've been on Linkedin since 2009 and since then I've had ONE job interview (not that I'm looking). As for this blog, it's purely for my own pleasure (I love writing and I've enjoying writing everything I've written on these pages). Once I decided to 'monetise' the blog and guess what? A few ads appeared, but I never made a single penny. And now, for some ridiculous reason, I've signed up to Facebook.

Andy and Matt on Westerham Green, 6 February 2016
We chatted about Top Gear. We both feel that Chris Evans won't pull it off – or rather he'll pull it off, in his own way, but he won't be able to recreate the magic of Messrs. Clarkson, May and Hammond. His biggest mistake would be trying to recreate what Clarkson and Co. created. And what the hell is Matt Le Blanc doing on the show? The strange thing about him is the fact that he's nothing like Joey from Friends. Now I know that's kind of obvious – he was, after all, acting – but I think people expect him to be Joey and he's not, he's quieter and considerably more reserved. Andy says they have an old 'stig' on the show too. Well, again, an 'old' Stig – a leftover from the glory days of Clarkson, May and Hammond. I'd love it to work for Chris Evans, I really would, but I'm still suffering withdrawal symptoms over Clarkson's departure.

The rain eased off early on in the ride and for most of the outward journey it was just wet tarmac and roadside puddles – not good if you don't have mudguards, but at least I had the waterproofs.

Reluctantly we mounted the bikes and rode out of Westerham. It's a long haul from the town to the bottom of the hill, but the hill itself isn't too bad. The problem is that it continues, naggingly, all the way to Botley Hill and beyond before we're able to settle in to a smooth ride along the 269 to Warlingham Green.

When I was a kid I remember pretending my bike was a train and that I was the driver. I made up mythical stations and pretended that kerbsides were platforms. The stations were named after some characteristic of the road, so if there was a plum tree the station was called Plumbury. Now, as I prepared to race past the Tatsfield Bus Stop without stopping I found myself imagining once again that I was driving a train, the non-stop Westerham to Sanderstead train that went through a station called Tatsfield Bus Stop. Silly, I know, but there you have it.

It's quite odd imagining things to be something they're not. I do it all the time. Going back to when I worked for a different publishing company, I remember, on my walks home during the dark, winter months, pretending that a pub fairly close to home was really an old haunted galleon and that I was in a rowing boat, alone, on calm black seas, when the old ship emerged from the fog and I continued on my journey, rowing alongside the eery, creaking, wooden hull, a bell ringing mysteriously on board, getting quieter as I rowed away from the mysterious vessel.

Andy and I parted company on the green and I reached home at 1010hrs. Here's hoping we both feel suitably inclined tomorrow morning to repeat today's performance.