19: Conspiracy Theory

Mitchells Cycles

In 2009 I eased up on the bike a little in the June-July period, punctures and a work project got in the way a little. Besides, that year the Pink Lady was suffering from a frozen shoulder so there was less pressure to venture out into the country. I missed the quickness of riding a bike backwards and forwards to work; that and it helped me to keep the weight down.

Then the bike was back in action and for the latter half of 2009 and a month or so of 2010 I was back in the saddle. Then problems with the bike occurred again.

After a month or so I got a little fed up with punctures, wheel wobble, a lump in the tyre, stretching cable wires. It seemed no sooner did Velocipede get it working, than another problem occurred.

The Pink Lady berated me:

“Why don’t you go to Mitchell’s Cycles? It’s only a few minutes away?” said she.

“Well…well, I, well, Velocipede does all my repairs…”

“He hasn’t done this one, though, has he?” was the lady’s comeback.

“Well, no, no, he hasn’t…but…”

“And how long has the bike been off the road.”

“Well, a month…” Mumbled I.

“How long?” asked she, again.

“About a month…” I responded, thinking she hadn’t heard.

Then came the ‘less of the bullshit stare’. If one has never been subjected to the Pink Lady’s ‘less of the bullshit’ stare, then one has no right to criticise how easily one falls apart under it.

“Two months…”

The stare again.

“….and three weeks…”

“So when is he going to repair it?” demanded the Pink Lady.

“I’m not sure, I mean he’s busy, one doesn’t like to push…” I stammered.

“Have you asked?”

“Well, not exactly asked. Did mention there was a spot of bother…”

“The bike’s bloody useless, with the brakes going and a wobbly tyre and a puncture….?”

“Yes,” I mumbled, even more quietly than before; my foot was drawing patterns in the ground, rather like a sulky child.

“So are you going to ring him, asking him for a firm date?”

I was caught between defence of a friend, whom I hadn’t stated any urgency to, and trying to tactfully move the conversation on.

“I think he’s on holiday…” again, mumbling. I don’t think I was the mumbling sort until I met the Pink lady.

“Then take it to Mitchell’s Cycles…get it sorted out!”

I frowned, speaking a little more loudly. “Can’t do that. I mean if I didn’t let Velocipede do the repairs he’d be offended, he’d think I’d lost confidence in him!”

“Rubbish, Fitrambler, it has nothing to do with hurting Velocipede’s feelings. It’s because you’re a tight fisted git. You don’t want to spend the ten or twenty quid…”

“Ten or twenty quid,” I exclaimed.

“Yes, ten or twenty quid, if you want to get it done and it’d be ready within twenty-four hours.”

“Well, maybe, but I ought to give Velocipede another call, let him have a chance…”

“Tight fisted…” she repeated.

“Now look here, I’ll have you know that that’s the last thing I am…Me, tight fisted, how can you say such a thing!”

“Easy, you always procrastinate when it comes to spending money. ‘I’ll buy it later, when the price comes down,’ or ‘I’ll think about it’. By the time your wallet sees the light of day or you’ve thought about it the thing’s gone.”

“I’m hurt. Miser, that’s what you’re saying. Nothing could be further from the truth…”

“So you’ll be taking the bike to Mitchell’s Cycles then, to get it sorted out.”

It was, I am afraid to admit, a trap I fell into. To prove I wasn’t a miser I had to get the bike repaired at Mitchell’s Cycles. But I didn’t do it immediately (ha, ha!). I can do defiance!

A few days later I went into Mitchell’s Cycles and pointed out the problems with the bike and they quoted me about eighty quid. So much for the Pink Lady’s ten to twenty quid quote. Well, ok, it wasn’t just a tyre, it was the brakes, and the gears were a little in need of a touch of the old TLC.

While I was there I made some enquiries about something which bothered me ever since I’d taken up cycling again. Being upright when cycling. I saw people who were upright when cycling and yet I was always bent forward, no matter how high Velocipede put the handlebars.

The chap in the shop showed me a few bikes he called ‘sit up and beg’ bikes. I saw a Dawes, Town and Country and straight away I was smitten. There are only a few things that I have admired almost immediately – Pink Lady aside – but this bike was one of them.

I gave it a little thought, my bike wouldn’t be ready until Saturday. I told them there was no hurry; besides, the longer it took them the more I could sigh at the Pink Lady and say “Mitchell’s Cycles, not as fast as you led me to believe.” Alright, a little childish but…

Anyway, the more I thought about the other bike, the Dawes, the more I got the feeling I just had to have it. I didn’t mention this to the Pink Lady, just told her about the cost and the time it’d take Mitchell’s to do the job on the old bike.

So, a bit of a conspiracy played across the old noggin, not realising that soon I would be involved in an even bigger one not of my own making…

I decided to buy the bike and when we next went out for a ride I would bring the new bike along and surprise her. The only person I told about the new bike was Velocipede before I bought it, asking his advice.

Within twenty-four hours I was riding the new bike, new lights, and adjusted as needed. I rode to work for about seven working days when the Pink Lady was going shopping one Sunday and decided to use her bike.

I was clocking up about eight miles a day but still was not really all that fit.

When I got into town I parked the bike, locked it up and saw the Pink Lady’s bike parked a couple of bikes up from me. So, I met up with the Pink Lady and we had coffee before going round the shops.

While we were having coffee, the Pink Lady asked. “So, what’s the progress on your bike?”

Carefully, I said: “The old bike is being repaired, needs quite a few things doing to it.”

“So you haven’t got your bike with you?”

“I said, the old bike is with Mitchell’s,” I repeated, carefully.

We moved onto subjects anew…

A while later I walked with the Pink Lady to her bike, then, casually took my helmet out of my rutsack. When the Pink lady saw me she frowned.

“You said your bike was being repaired!” she said, and looked amongst the other bikes, frowning all the more. “I can’t see it.”

I smiled as I put my rutsack back on my back, then took out my keys and began unlocking the new bike.

She didn’t quite do a double take but it was close.

“This is my new bike,” I said.

“You never said you’d got a new bike?”

I just smiled. The Pink Lady looked over the bike and approved.

“Well, Fitrambler, as we’ve both got our bikes, how about a ride?” she suggested.

I was full of pride in my new bicycle that the idea seemed a good one.

“Where to?” asked I.

“I’ve been wanting to look at the path that leads to Chiseldon,” replied she.

That seemed okay to me, finding the beginning of a path to Chiseldon, not as though it will be all that far?

“Not too far, then.”

“Oh no,” said she, “not too far at all…”

Distances are relative to the person. A couple of of our short rides in the past have been rather long in my opinion, but one has managed. But I felt on safe ground with what she had suggested.

However, we weren’t going far, so I went along with it. After all, finding the new cycle path to Chiseldon wasn’t the same as riding it all the way to Chiseldon was it?

So, off we go, Fitrambler following the jean-clad bottom so familiar on bike rides. We went to the bottom of town and follow the Canal all the way to Old Town. Then it was onwards to Coate Water and beyond that to a road I knew from a previous ride. It was here I got a little worried because the last time I was on this road it led to a bloody great hill. My feelings on hills are well documented. But we only went a hundred or so yards before we turned off in what looked at first like someone’s stone chipped drive but led through into Coate Water.

We continued on and I began to identify familiar parts of Coate Water for over ten minutes before we were through and then almost to the motorway. This is where I began to get a little suspicious; especially when I saw the twisty-bridge thingy.

We got level with the twisty-bridge thingy – or rather the Pink Lady did – and began cycling up it.

I tried to register a protest here – like had we not gone far enough and how much further after the bridge – but the distance and noise of the bloody traffic drowned me out.

So, no choice but to go up the twisty-bridge thing, which I did and got to the other side, whereby it was downhill. There the Pink Lady slowed to see if I was still there but before I could shout out a protest it was arse chasing time again as she was off!

The route seemed straight enough until it veered off to the right and became rather steep; actually bloody steep.

Hill, bloody hill. Ahhh God!

Off went the Pink Lady, the distance between us increasing. There was something very familiar about the territory. As I moved through the gears and fortunately with this new bike there were more of them, I began to curse and swear.

I barely managed to get to the top of thing long and winding road (all due respect to the Beatles), but when I did I wasn’t a happy bunny.

I parked the bike about twenty feet away from where the Pink Lady was. I was trying to decide whether or not to throw the bike in the bushes or at the Pink Lady! This wasn’t what I agreed too.

Anyway hot and sweaty I calm down and the bike doesn’t get imbedded in the ground or indeed the Pink Lady – gentlemanly instincts prevailing. I leant it against a fence and walked ten or more yards away from the Pink Lady until all aggressive thoughts died down.

“Chiseldon,” said she.

“Great!” I responded in a less than enthusiastic tone.

As far as I saw it I’d gone three times as far as I planned and discovered there must be a language barrier between us. The Pink Lady originates from Nottingham, a place I have only visited once on official business door to door and not actually venturing out. So I was thinking now that ‘finding the path’ to somewhere meant not only finding it but following it to its logical bloody conclusion.

Thinking back it reminded me of my pub trips with Ol’ Blameworthy. He would often suggest a pub he was taking us to was just around what turned out to be the biggest and longest corner in existence.

Finally, we take the journey home….

The Old Residence

The following day, Monday, (walking like I was a member of the John Wayne impressionist society) I texted Velocipede and we arranged a bike ride for the coming Friday, despite my aches.

But, in view of yesterday’s experiences with the Pink Lady I decided I’d lay out some ground rules.

NO HILLS!

Velocipede assured me this will not be the case and he has a route in mind which will suit me nicely.

Being an amiable sort of chap, I believed him.

Friday arrived and we decide first to go over our childhood turf. So from the old Fitrambler residence we follow the Queens Drive until we get to Park South. We looked over our old houses, took a few photos of the front and back, and then cycle the way we would have done had we been going to school; really doing the memory lane thing.

The Back Way to the Old Residence: More boarded up nowadays.

Then from there we looked around the shopping centre opposite our old school and then back towards Coate Water. I let Velocipede lead and as went past Coate, turned into the same lane as the one the Pink Lady did last Sunday, I began to get a little tingle up the spine. More tingling as we turned up the driveway and started cutting our way through Coate Water.

No, I tell myself, following this bit is just a coincidence, a ride round Coate means nothing….

But when we rode past Coate Water and onto a side road, which then lead through some gates and exactly on the path through Coate Water which I travelled the previous Sunday with the Pink Lady, the spine is positively pin-prinkingly tingling!

I frowned but remembered the text. No hills and Velocipede agreed to that. I was wrong to doubt the chap, he just wouldn’t do that to me.

We followed the route until we got to the helter-skelter thingy.

We stopped there for a few seconds.

“Um, where are we going?”

“Over that,” he said, pointing to the helter-skelter thingy.

“Yes, and then?”

“A pub,” he tells me pleased.

“But there’s a bloody hill between the pub and the hill, isn’t there.”

His face wrinkles as little as he says: “Nah, not really.”

I think for a second or two and decide – quite naively as it turns out – that Velocipede probably knows an non-hill route on the other side. I mean, the agreement was no hills! (Yes, clutching at straws by now!)

Then he’s off again and I have no choice but to follow…

…UP A BLOODY GREAT TWISTY HILL. THE SAME BLOODY TWISTY HILL AS LAST SUNDAY!

I do a little better this time. Trying to concentrate on important things ahead to take my mind off the strain.

“Beer and pub, beer and pub…” I chant to myself, almost trying to put myself into a trance.

But as I struggled to get to the top, I rapidly began to wonder which part of my text ‘No hills’ he hadn’t understood?

Finally we reached the promised pub only to find it’s bloody closed! It’s either being refurbished or being converted into flats or a house. I don’t know which but I’m not happy.

The Elm Tree 1996 - Now no longer with us.

But Velocipede recovers from the temporary disappointment and says there is another one quite near we can try and, surprise, surprise, the route is via another large hill! Oh joy!

Happiness and old Fitrambler weren’t having any quality time together this evening.

In the midst of my tiredness, moaning and general demeanour of being pissed off at people who have difficulty digesting the phrase ‘I don’t like hill’, a theory begins to form.

It is a bloody conspiracy!

Tired and perhaps a touch delirious – it was a long day – I remembered Velocipede and the Pink Lady had met a couple of times at the monthly sojourn at the Glue Pot. Both committed cyclists for most of their lives!

Who’s to say they haven’t spoken to each other without me present or indeed while I might have been distracted talking to Wellread?

Can they think I’d really be naïve as to think two bike rides in a week should follow the same route and be put down as coincidence? No, no, no. A bloody conspiracy, I tell you!

Yep. Had to be a put up job. Yes, they were trying to kill me, I knew they were, no other explanation…my left eye was beginning to twitch by now and I was quietly manically laughing to myself…

We eventually left Chiseldon, made our way to Badbury and the Bakers Arms.

It was a long time ago when I last drank in that establishment. One of the first times was with Ol’ Blameworthy, when we worked at the same Company together back in the very late 1970s, early 1980s. Memories of darts games and copious amounts of 2Bs flowed through the old noggin.

The Back Garden of The Bakers at Badbury

Now the bar was knocked into one, making the place a lot more spacious. There was a quiz on and most of the seats were taken. Although the 2Bs was on we both decided to have Cider. I wasn’t sure of the strength, but it wasn’t very powerful falling down water.

It was a lovely evening (if you didn’t count the hills and the conspiracy). So we made our way through to the back garden. There were only two other people in the garden.

About thirty to forty minutes later we were back on the bikes and off, the way home.

Fortunately, any hills we confronted was a descent and not an ascent, so it was a little better. In fact where hills are concerned going down them is not a bother, I rather recommend it.

Still, (hills not included) it was a rather pleasant evening out. It was nice to see an old drinking hole, to see how it’d changed over the years.

However, no one will convince me that Velocipede and the Pink Lady didn’t conspire under the dubious pretext of humour, to put me through the same gruelling ride twice in one week!

I’m not paranoid, they really are out to get me….

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135 comments on “19: Conspiracy Theory

  1. Odd you should mention about the cane. I would looking at a rather nice one in North Wales which had a ram’s head atop it. I rather liked it. I wish I had bought it now, but felt at the time the type of handle may have created problems if I used it to walk with. Sore hand, methinks.

    Still, there must be a place in Swindon which sells those sort of things.

  2. An admirable diaplay of magnanimity, Fitrambler. Blameworthy is correct in one respect – all my opinions of the world do derive from my imaginings and prejudices rather than the reality that ought by rights to be their grist. But a cane would suit you, I think.

    As for you, Blameworthy, words fail me. And then, fortunately, fail to fail me.

  3. To enter the fray:

    My comment last night was to point out that I’d answered my earlier question based upon the Comment Tennis (or possible pantomime sequence) of whether or not either, neither or both would be absent from the Southbrook Friday.

    Gloom-Laden’s assumption that I was disappointed proceeds from a false assumption. The dictionary definition of Disappointment is ‘the feelings of sadness or displeasure caused by non-fulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations…’

    This was not the case. I turned up at the Southbrook because I said I would. While there I had one pint of Courage Best – not the best of beers but acceptable. I read several chapters of a book on my Kindle, then with umbrella (rather than cane) I headed off home to execute Plan B (something I always have in most events for my life, regardless of situation) and worked on a blog article while sipping my way through a couple of bottle of Up and Under.

    To be honest, the clues were there. A beer exhibitions, lots of beer, travel out of town or a session with myself in the Southbrook. I believe, although not too smart, that even I could guess what the odds of each were.

    As I hadn’t been on the blog that day, when 6pm approached I did think that perhaps Blameworthy had called the session off, but not having access to my blog in the Southbrook I couldn’t check.

    Blameworthy has apologised and so that is an end to the matter.

    However, I must correct Blameworthy on a certain comment, which probably was throwaway wit, on the matter of mobile phones. I have had about five phones in the last six years. However, from february 2005 to end of March 2008 both phones were on Vodafone with the same number each time. From April 2008 until May 2011 this year I have had three phones which were all linked to the same number on O2.

    As is my habit, I text people with my new number. The old O2 is still active on pay as you go (another of my plan Bs) but I left it in my drawer at work when I went on leave, so it’s there with your message on. I was in a hurry to get away that evening.

    However, the upshot of it is that no harm has been done.

    Oh, and Gloom-Laden, this is not a criticism of your berating of Blameworthy. Appreciate the comments but feel I ought to set the record straight.

  4. I cannot recall the hook ever having been well and truly out, GloomLaden. But answer me this: when, until now, have I ever let Fitrambler down? When have I ever let you down for that matter? Your vitriolic assassination of my character is based on nothing of any substance, as is your virulent criticism of one of Swindon’s few characterful hostelries. But the Southbrook should never be dubbed my ‘local’. A ‘local’, by its very definition, cannot be within a fifty mile radius of a person’s home. I have lots of locals, but only one or two of them are in the same county as the tumbledown hovel I choose to call my home.

  5. How typical that Blameworthy’s objections to my critique of his immoral conduct should be at the footling level of atmosphere engendering detail while the awfulness of his moral conduct gapes wide and foul as an unattended gangrenous wound. It is as if a Jew were to have objected to the Nazi death camps on the grounds that the music played to the exterminees was not to their taste. No matter the vintage of your dwelling, Blameworthy, you have forced Fitrambler into a hostile hostelry of your own choosing and abandoned him to its vulgar, shaven headed inhabitants while you slouch home to one of Mrs Blameworthy’s wholesome (albeit acid flecked) repasts and a good long snooze. Whatever yeasty dreams idly crossed the mind of our former friend it is impossible to know without his honest testimony (fat chance that). But I”ll make a wager that Fitrambler’s plight was not among their themes, even in the most tangential or surrealistic of senses. So, Blameworthy, quibble as you might, the hook is still well and tryly in.

  6. Well, you’d know all about the bedrock of disappointment and despair GloomLaden, having hit it long before you met me. You now spend most of your spare time in the darkness, deep shaft mining the rich seams of melancholic wretchedness at a much greater depth. I blame it all on you, you’re nothing but a Jonah.

    …and the tumbledown, squalid hovel is a 1930s house, not 1950s.

    …and the Fitrambler/Blameworthy sessions were in the late 1970s and early 80s.

    For God’s sake man, get your facts right! Do you think you’re writing for the Daily Mail or something?

  7. I was never intending to go. The Southbrook might as well be Ulan Bator so far as I am concerned. I am sorry to hear of your lonely sojourn to that remote hostelry, Fitrambler. Blameworthy is once more proved a disgrace to humanity. He admits to having been out drinking all afternoon. The Southbrook was his suggestion of venue. The Southbrook is, deny it as he may, his ‘local’. You’d think he could have found it in himself to just go in for the one at five thirty, Instead, sated with strange ales and noxious ciders, he stumbled home to the tumbledown squalor of the 1950s house with nary a thought for his oldest friend. Fitrambler, huncheing alone over a desultry pint of John Smiths Smooth (Extra Chilled) will rightly have gotten through the decades of loyalty and friendship that have accrued since those mid 1970s sessions chronicled elsewhere on this blog, finally hitting the bedrock of disappointment and despair that are all a friendship with Blameworthy can ever really come to. Fitrambler is not the fellow for tear or tantrum. He is a stoic who obeys Kipling’s injunction to treat triumph and disaster both the same quite instinctively. But I’ll wager, as he supped the dregs from his pint and took up his sturdy cane for the journey home, a chill wwnt through him that had nothing to do with the doubtless excessive air conditioning in the Southbrook and everything to do with a realisation of the frailty and inconstancy of friendships in a world where the only rendez-vous you can rely on is with unresting Death.

  8. Please accept my apologies Fitrambler, but I did send you a text from work on Friday morning, informing you that I wouldn’t be coming to the Southbrook. You would have known from the blog comments posted during the week that I had failed to persuade GloomLaden to attend. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard him utter his latest catchphrase – ‘those days are long gone’ – recently. Curiosity got the better of me and I made a spur of the moment decision to take the afternoon off and visit the Swindon Beer Festival. Clearly, I forgot to take into account your tendency to get a new phone every few days. The number I have for you must be out of date. Mine, on the other hand, is still the same and I still have the old bakelite mobile handset with ten thousand yards of frayed cable.

    I had suggested going to the festival as an alternative to the pub, but having got an even more negative response than usual from GloomLaden on that one, I decided to go alone. I’m glad I did now; it was quite impressive, with over 100 beers and 20 ciders and perries this year. Not intending to stay long, I opted for some of the stronger dark beers with those ludicrous, almost poetic, names that not so much trip, as stumble, off the tongue: Arbor Oyster Stout; Betjeman Sebastopol; Cheddar Totty Pot; Hoggleys Solstice Stout; Sadler’s Mud City and Woodfordes Norfolk Nog. For anyone out there who might be insane enough to try it, I would not recommend following a glass of rough and hazy Lilley’s Crazy Goat cider with an Imperial Russian Stout. Inevitably the usual suspects were to be seen with ticking pens and programmes in hand. I spotted Mr. Greenkeeper, Mr. Verbosity and Mrs. Loudhailer amongst those at the bar. It’s just a shame that GloomLaden, Fitrambler and the Gowithits couldn’t have been there this year.

  9. On the 18th October 2011 I posted a comment confirming I would be at The Southbrook on 28th October. The comment ended with “The question is will I be the only one?”

    I am now able to answer my own question: Yes, I was the only one who turned up.

    I was there from just after 5.30pm to 6.40pm….

  10. Once again, Gloomladen, you have been deceived by the image you have fixed inside your own head; an image based on no hard evidence of the real world. I feel sure there have been more stabbings in Wells Cathedral over the years, than have taken place in the Southbrook. Although, if Lord Bragg was ever to venture inside the public bar, that could change in a mere flick of the wrist. In any case, just because a place is good enough for Lord Bragg, doesn’t mean its good enough for you.

  11. I mentioned Wells because Lord Bragg was going on about how brilliant it was listening to evensong at the cathedral. The mead I mentioned because it is an olde English drink I have not tried. And two will have to be a quorum on Friday as nothing will convince me to visit the Soutthbrook, even the name of which has the feel of a Bristolian suburb where stabbings are commonplace.

    I don’t know about the Fall album. I listen to them much less than I did and, since the last one was well above average, this one is certain to disappoint.

    Good to hear about the Tuckers Grave. Let’s go there now. NOW! Too late.

  12. Robert Robinson is still dead but, far more importantly, I’ve just heard that the Tucker’s Grave has reopened. So there is life after death when there’s a demand for it.

  13. You can still get to Wells on a former railway track, GloomLaden. The old Somerset & Dorset ran through Glastonbury with a branch to Wells, but it was axed by Sue Pollard in Oh, Doctor Beeching! If you fancy a session in Wells on Saturday, we could wait, at midnight, on the spot where the station once was – probably now a B&Q loading bay or something – for a train home. Mead is available commercially in lots of places; you would know that if you ever ventured out of doors. They sell it on a stall in Cirencester market. You can even try a small sample before buying, but who on earth would want to buy mead, having already sampled it.

    Robert Robinson is dead and will never live again. Now let that be an end to it.

    The Fall LP has such an excellent title I may have to buy it. Of course, I wouldn’t want to spoil things by actually playing the CD.

    And the Southbrook is back on for Friday. I’ve never allowed you to talk me out of anything before – even though you have talked yourself out of numerous splendid outings – and I don’t intend to start now, even though I agree that, on this occasion, it’s an appalling idea.

  14. ‘They call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.’
    – Robert Robinson

  15. Indeed, Blameworthy, we could more profitably squander the little but still overmuch time left to us by pondering the following:
    Can one get to Wells by train?
    Is mead commercially available anywhere?
    Why did people ever decant spirits? Wine improves with that bit of an airing but surely not single malts.
    Will the new Fall LP – entitled Ersatz UK – be any good?
    Will Robert Robinson continue to be dead without cease at all points from now on or might there come even a single moment sometime in the next 400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years when somehow he isn’t?

  16. This is starting to feel like one of those long days out with you GloomLaden. Locked away in a fantasy world of your own making, you continue to trumpet your own intellectual self-importance, without ever bothering to stoop so low as to listen to what anyone else is saying.

  17. So. The word worthwhile should never be used in the same sentence? As what? You’ve lost it, Blamewothy.

  18. I must confess though, I’m getting just as snobbish about where I go for a decent drink as GloomLaden is about every other aspect of life. Even my own home is not good enough for me. The Boat, by the river, on a sunny, midsummer Saturday afternoon in June, with the swallows swooping overhead, is certainly worth getting out of bed for. The long hike up the Slad Valley to the Woolpack, on a bone-chilling February morning, is a delight. Warming your feet on the brass fender, in front of a blazing fire made up of the previous summer’s ash boughs, whilst marvelling at the multifarious flavours found in a pint of Uley Old Spot is heart-warming; and if you survive the frost and the cider, even the walk back to the station can be enlightening.

    Swindon on a Friday night; talking about work and how well your career is progressing; and whether Ferguson is too old to cope with the pressure of the Premiership; and is Strictly better than the X Factor; and should Robbie ever have left Take That…

    I can’t go on.

  19. There’s a difference though, GloomLaden. Robert Robinson should have died thirty years earlier and given us all a break from his baldly persistent smugness, whereas Mrs. Sunshine should have survived another thirty years, or at least seen me out. And don’t tell me his life was more worthwhile, because the words life and worthwhile should never be used in the same sentence. Not any more.

  20. Robert Robinson update: he is still dead. As is Ms Sunshine.

    Some people have all the luck.

    Mind you, there’s a new Fall LP out in November.

  21. Me neither; I’m worn out just from suggesting it all. I intend to go back into my cupboard under the stairs; curl up into a ball with my hands over my head; and not come out until long after Christmas, when I will be a year older and wise enough not to suggest doing anything involving drinking or travelling.

    Happy New Year, everyone!

  22. Having considered all the options, I’m not going anywhere with anyone – or even alone – ever again.

  23. Didn’t we do that last year? I seem to remember losing consciousness during the eleventh pint of Old Rosie and waking up in Droitwich Spa. Which is as near to death as makes no difference.

    No, lets go to the beer festival. We should be able to make it back to Swindon station in time for the last train out.

  24. Then again, we could opt for getting the train to Stroud, strolling up the Slad Valley to the Woolpack and enjoying more than a few beers before closing time, whereupon we could walk out of the pub and lay ourselves down on some chill swell of moon dappled hillside, gazing up at a doubtless gibbous moon and galaxies of impossibly distant stars while consciousness gently ebbed from us once and for all.

  25. You’re absolutely right, GloomLaden; I don’t know why I suggested any of it; I’m not going to either, either. Instead, I shall gather my family around the piano and play a little Liszt, for their entertainment. Then, after a supper of Italian White Alba truffles and a few glasses of Chateau Haut Brion Pessac-Lognan 1982, I intend to listen to my remastered recording of Maria Callas singing her excellent version of ‘I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts’. Before retiring early to bed I may even recite a few chapters from the calf-leather bound edition of Seamus Heaney’s reworking of the Rosie & Jim stories.

  26. The awful pub is preferable to the beer festival because
    1: you can probably sit down in the pub
    2: beer festival attendees are raddled beardie ruins I don’t want to get anywhere near in case it’s catching.
    3: all that mucking about with beer tokens
    4: the risk of going on to the cider
    5: having to think about what to order rather than making one decision and then slurring ‘Same again.’
    6: beers with gimmicky names you’ll never see again even – perhaps eseocially – if you like tham.

    Of course, I’m not going to either, choosing instead to read some Keats while listening to Mozart while sipping champagne.

  27. My apologies GloomLaden, I didn’t realise you knew the pub so well. But, how is all that preferable to the beer festival option?

    Actually, it’s not an estate pub but a former farmhouse. I believe John Clare visited in 1843 and wrote ‘As I Sat By The Babbling Brook’ over a pint of rough cider. Robert Robinson knew the landlady’s brother’s White Suffolk sheep and Thomas Hardy’s father drew up the plans for the milking parlour extension, which now houses the outside toilets. Some say that if you sit in the public bar in the dead of night, you can still hear the sounds of heavy horses ploughing and long dead farm labourers honing their scythes in the car park.

    Apart from that, your description is uncannily accurate.

  28. Of course I have more important things to attend to: Death won’t contemplate itself you know. My vote is for the estate pub. There’ll be lots of shaven headed blokes in there swearing about Man U, the John Smiths Smooth will have had all the taste frozen out of it, there’ll be plenty of loud and aggressive canines in, TV and jukebox will be blaring Sky Sports Umpteen and rap all night long and everyone there will be pissed before ww even get there, having come off a building site earlier in the day for twelve pints of Stella and a one sided fight with a clerical worker. Deal drugs in there and you’ll be nominated for the Queen’s Award to Industry. Mention John Clare and you’ll be kicked out onto the concrete by burly regulars faster than you can say ‘Robert Robinson.’

  29. I know it’s difficult to choose, and you won’t want to miss out on either; so why not do both? Unless, of course, you have more important things to attend to.

  30. What a choice! An evening in some remote pub on a housing estate at the fringes of civilization or the crush of long term unemployable beardie tramps at the Swindon beer festival.

  31. Just been studying the list of beers, ciders and perries for the Swindon Beer Festival, which is on next weekend at the Steam museum. I’m ashamed to admit that I’d completely forgotten about it until I read something in an Oxfordshire CAMRA magazine yesterday. There are some interesting names on the list, including 25 Silver Pigs Stout and Ginger Explosion. It will be of interest to Fitrambler that, at a quick glance, I could count 18 beers which I recognised as stouts, porters or milds. Some of the more obscure names, which I’ve not previously heard of, will probably be dark beers as well.

    It’s just a thought, but how about doing a session at the beer festival instead of the meeting at the Southbrook. Friday evening tickets have long since sold out, but we could pay on the door on Thursday evening or Saturday lunchtime. My preference would always be for a lunchtime session, but I can’t imagine – with our combined ages approaching 153 years – that we could cope with spending the previous evening in the pub as well.

    Ohhh… go on then!

  32. I’m afraid that old joke has been doing the rounds since the early days of rock & roll. Only the name of the man on the receiving end of the stomach pump has changed. I’ve heard it applied to George Michael and Elton John as well. No doubt there are pop stars today who provide a more convincing, up to date, butt for the tale.

    I know Arkwright’s quite well and used the shop a few times during an experimental period when I tried – unsuccessfully – to make a decent home brew. I should have known the task is impossible and that all home made beers taste foul.

    So do most all-day breakfasts, I might add; but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

  33. If memory serves, I think I shared that little piece of trivia with you on a beer drinking session (no surprise there) in Bristol. It must’ve been about 1980/1 as I was still on the middle floor & I remember who told me the story first.

    Ah, happy days, yes.

    Should we do it again?

    No. P’raps not!

    The Pink Lady and I often have a damn good breakfast in Highworth. A place called Brooks. High worth can also boast a shop a little way from the centre called Arkwrights. A good selection of malts but more importantly quite a few bottled beers.

    The Pink Lady is rather fond of the Chuffing Ale we bought on a previous visit.

    About due another Brooks soon.

    Oh, and I introduced Neatentidy to Brooks recently.

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