18: Ups And Downs In The Saddle

The Pub At The Top Of The Hill - Calley Arms

After my first puncture messing up the first bike ride with the Pink Lady, the subsequent rides was somewhat more successful.

To be honest, it could not have been much worse!

We decided, correction, The Pink Lady, decided we would take a ride out to a gardening centre. That worried me a little. It was not so much the bike ride itself, but the memory which flashed through to Fitrambler brain; the Pink lady had taken a look at the Fitrambler garden recently – commonly known as the Fitrambler jungle.

Some have suggested I put a sign up at the back saying:

‘Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here!’

Legend has it Boy Scouts have been known to get lost in there on bob a job week! Of course, as with all legends, it starts with something simple and then is blown out of all proportion – I once found what looked like a boy scout cap…

Anyway, back to the bike ride…

‘It’s a lovely day and I need a few bits and pieces,’ said she.

‘You need a few bits and pieces.’ Said I.

‘Yes, and it’ll be a nice bike ride,’ the Pink Lady.

‘So, we’re going out for a bike ride to a gardening centre to get things for your garden, purely for yours?’ I repeated.

‘Something wrong with your ears, Fitrambler, that’s what I said.’

‘No, no, not at all. Absolutely, damn good idea.’

I was alright with that, long as she had not got it into her head to encourage me to spend money on the Fitrambler jungle. One likes to know the parameters once is working to. Besides, spending good money on the damn garden is bad enough but the bloody work that leads to. Well…

‘I’ve set our dinner going so that it’ll be ready when we get back…’

On hearing that the saliva glands began to work overtime. I tried to think of a way I could forgo the bike right and get to the dinner bit very quickly…

‘Are you ready, Freddie?’ she asked, and I straight away knew I would not get away with any excuse not to go on the bike ride, not if I wanted to stuff the old chops later.

Not that I did not want to go on the bike ride, but the thought of a Pink Lady dinner was distracting me somewhat!

Anyway, bikes out and helmets on, we were off, with, as usual, the Pink Lady leading the way.

What I did not realise was that we were not taking a direct route! This would be something which would become common over time, me confusing what was exactly happening…

We cycled to Old Town, from Toothill via the old railway line, through the back of Coate Water and up towards Hodson.

I sort of recognised the route or at least have travelled parts of it before in a car. How the direction fitted in with our journey to the Garden Centre I did not know. But these were early days of bike rides with The Pink Lady and I trusted her to lead the way.

To be honest, my sense of direction is not always perfect. Unless there’s a decent and sensible landmark. You know the sort of thing, pub, book shop, or a good place for a scoff, then I have a little difficulty. Also, in the last twenty years I had mainly gone places in cars…

What I should have remembered, though, was there’s a bloody great hill Hodson way. But as I said, only ever done the journey in a car and usually hills are not all that much of a problem in a car.

What I did remember was there were at least half a dozen times when I drank in there. First time when I got my first car and drove out there with Neatentidy, and then several times with Blameworthy. I think it was one visit with Blameworthy when I got one of my few 180’s at darts. History in the making.

Anyway, we obviously start at the bottom and as things go on, the Pink Lady gets further and further ahead and I start to slow down. Let’s face it, the Pink Lady has been cycling most of her life – almost came out of the womb with a bike attached. Me, I gave up around sixteen and only began again at 49. I just did not have her level of fitness.

Since I bought the new bike, I only used a few gears, having previously been used to around three gears on my bikes. On this hill I found myself getting right down to the lowest gear and still bloody struggling.

It got to a point where I felt I was going sideways, quite dangerous with the occasional oncoming car. It’s that sudden look of fear as they come round the corner and you are almost on their bonnet; a look that says ‘I think I just crapped myself!’

Fortunately, from my point of view, the sight of the oncoming car gave me a momentary burst of adrenalin and I managed to get over to my side of the road before having an impromptu flying lesson!

Unfortunately, this sudden energy burst did not last and I ended up getting off and walking, which was not much easier as most of my reserves of energy had been used trying to cycle up the bloody hill.

By this time my lungs were pounding like set of electric bellows which were on overload!

Finally, and what to me seemed hours later, but was probably only ten minutes later, I am approaching the top and there’s the Pink Lady leaning on her bike looking quite relaxed and smiling.

Now I am sure that the smiling was just a sign of friendliness but how I felt at that precise moment, combined with what I had just gone through, made me a tad suspicious that she was being smug.

When I eventually found enough breath to be able to speak, I explained:

‘Had..to..get..off..to..get..up..the..hill, couldn’t…peddle…any further.’

The Pink Lady asked: ‘Why didn’t you use the gears?’

I paused, fighting the urge to say: ‘because I didn’t have any ****ing gears left!’

After all, it was not her fault I was in the state I was, well, not entirely, anyway. Instead I looked across at the pub.

‘Been in there,’ I changed the subject, still sounding like a heavy breather on an obscene telephone call.

‘Do you want to go in.’

‘No. Best not.’

It was tempting, so very tempting but there were several reasons for my sudden bout of willpower. The first was that if I got inside she would have to drag me back out again. After what I just went through to get up the hill my enthusiasm for cycling had taken something of a bruising.

Secondly, I did not have enough money on me to pay for a round; or even just one for me!

I got about five minutes rest before we were off again and I was trying to keep up with the Pink Lady again.

Beautiful To Look At, A Long Way To Go!

That day I got to see the Pink Lady’s jean-covered arse more than her face as I followed it through the country roads. There are many worse things in life but it would have been nice to have narrowed the gap to less that three hundred yards!

But it was a lovely day; impending heart attack to one side.

Luckily, it was only a short upward ascension before we travelled down a very steep hill. This was a hill leading into more familiar territory, Wroughton.

Ah, good old Blameworthy and I walked to that village many a time in those days, trying to slate our thirst with beer…

I just caught the Pink Lady turn left at the end from my vast distance behind her. I did the same.

If nothing else, the ride down the hill at speed rested me a little and dried the sweat which previously was pouring out of every pore, so to speak.

This hill, although a lot easier, was a little frightening. I was going at a hell of a rate of knots and relying heavily of the breaks on the bike.

A few minutes later we were going up another hill before going off in the general direction of where the Pink Lady lived. A puzzle as I thought we were heading to the Garden Centre; wherever that was?

As it turned out we had gone in a wide circle in order to go away from the garden centre then curve back round to be back on track. It was at this point I should have begun to get a little more inquisitive, shall we say, about what routes we were taking; something I would attempt in future.

There were several more hills (not on the scale of the Hodson one, thankfully) before we finally arrive at the Garden Centre and the Pink Lady decides it might be an idea to have a cup of tea or coffee?

A cup? The distance I travelled and the effort I put in I wanted a bucket of coffee!

My keenest on cycling was depreciated a little on this first ride, especially the hill bit. I did try an tell myself I needed to get my fitness up a lot more and I would sail up the hills – or at least that was the opinion of the Pink Lady!


That hill, the one at Hodson, was not going to be the last one or indeed the last time I would have to try and cycle up it.

A week or so later we took a ride out towards the Village in at the top of Liddington. We began the journey from the Pink Lady’s house, where she was working on the meal we would have on our return. I can think of no better incentive for a bike ride than the prospect of a Pink Lady cooked meal at the end of it…

Fitrambler in paradise!

This time it felt a lot more civilized as I seemed better prepared for the hills; to be honest, I do not think they were any where as bad or twisty. I think it was the twisty-thing that did for me on the Hodson hill. There’s no real way to take a run at (or should that be a ride at it?) and get up a bit of speed. Whereas, going to Liddington that option was there.

The Pink Lady still remained ahead for the most part but I consoled myself with the fact I was being gentlemanly; you know, ladies first and all that.

We dropped off at the Village Inn at Liddington but the place was closed, which was bad news. Not happy with that at all, really bad form.

How Dare The Pub Not Be Open - The Village Inn.

So after a five or ten minute rest, where, for a few minutes of that rest, it spotted a little with rain, we moved on. Within half a mile the sun peeped out from behind the clouds.

Onwards we went, to our next port of call which was Wanborough. This time our (my) luck was in and the Calley Arms was open.

Time for a snifter!

Once we double locked our bikes up in the car park, we moved round to the front entrance. Never been much of one for the back entrance, not in my nature…

Up against the wall was an old rusting bike which the Pink Lady took a liking to. Out came the phone and she took a picture of it. I was not quite sure what the interest was but I was getting a little impatient for my ale.
I mean, be fair, the bike had been rotting away there for years, no reason why she could not have taken the photo on the way out? Still, that’s women for you. What they want you have to do now, what you want can wait a while!

Not A Bad Drop Of Beer And Much Needed - The Other Calley Arms.

Anyway, once inside I managed to get away with two drinks before we were on our way. To be honest, I did not want too many because of the journey home. Although a fine and sunny day, it was quite windy on some of the country roads.

Well, too many beers and there’s a pressing need to drain the old python; and having a crafty pee near a bush or something with a wind that might change direction at any minute; bit risky. It’s bad as a wet fart in white trousers! Not good for the image!

If I remember correctly, that ride was about 25 miles, which I did not discover until we got back to the Pink Lady’s house. She has a Speedo-come milometer on her bike; oddly enough in pink.

Made me feel rather good, cycling all that way. Of course what made me feel far, far better was sitting down to the Sunday roast the Pink Lady had cooked…

The rides during that Summer often began from the Pink Lady’s house or the canal bridge. And quite a few ended with dinner or lunch (and a pudding, no less) at the Pink Lady residence…

A Fitrambler cannot ask for more in life…well this one can’t!

17: Riding The Pain

I was told it would get easier. Really, it would. But after ten days I was getting rather doubtful.

Yes, ten days I had been riding the new bike and the old rear end was giving me trouble.

I mentioned the discomfort to the Pink Lady.

‘You’ll get use to it,’ said she. And then moved the conversation on to other things…

The lashings of sympathy overwhelmed me!

It was a balancing act really – no pun intended – riding the bike. The sore arse I did not like, but the actual ride itself was quite fun.

Backwards and forwards to work, 25 minutes each way was a lot quicker than the 50 minutes walking would take. It was good exercise and saved pounds on bus fare, so the pluses were there.

On the negative side, as previously stated, there was the ubiquitous sore arse. It felt painful as I got on and after the ride it felt like someone had taken a Bunsen burner to it. And I was walking bow-legged, like I had crapped myself.

Let’s be honest, Old Fitrambler here has never been a great friend of Mr Pain!

Still, I was persevering. I had thrown three hundred quid at this little convenience and was not going to give up easily. I worked out that to pay back what I spent it would take 94 rides to and from work. By putting away the bus fare into my TARDIS money-box I could pay it back; there would be plenty of room as the box never seemed to fill up…

I have to admit, I got as far as two hundred and ten quid before I started to forget or leave IOU notes…

However, I carried on. Even the snow did not stop me – slowed me down, perhaps, but it never stopped me. Nor when it belted down with rain did the Fitramber determination diminish.

I looked to see the thrashing rain and think: ‘Now, Fitrambler (I’m good with names) it’s not fit for man nor beast out there. But, what would Velocipede do? Would he let that stop him? Oh no. In all weathers, he would be out there on the bike, not letting anything stop him, moving through it with grim determination!’

As it happened some weeks later, the question of what Velocipede would do was revealed. We met in town and he told me. One look at the thrashing rain or the snow and it was a case of ‘Sod that!’ and out with the car.

Luckily, I did not know that when I was giving myself the pep-talk!

Even the Pink Lady has been known to lay off the old bike if she’s likely to have lots of trouble with the wind

Hmm. Perhaps I had better explain that. I’m not suggesting for one moment the Pink Lady is subject to severe bouts of flatulence, oh no, more about the winds of nature, blowing up a gale force.

I can understand that. Part of the route I take home leaves me out in the open, no buildings or woods to protect me from rather severe cross winds when they have a mind to blowing.

On one occasion the wind was so bad I reached the lowest gear on the bike and was still struggling to make any progress. So bad in fact, that a snail overtook me. Still, I’m sure it had racing stripes on its side, so I did not feel quite so embarrassed…

Moments like that made me a little inclined to give up. Trouble is, you never know which days are going to be like that? And if you have ridden to work, you bloody well have to ride back. It’s a sort of a rule!

Anyway, by the time the first month was up I suddenly realised the old rear end had stopped giving me grief. It was odd, the pain barrier just disappeared without me noticing it.

So, from then on until about a week after Christmas 2008 – over two months later – I was getting a lot fitter and enjoying the trip to and from work.

Already the Pink Lady was making plans to extend the biking experience to weekends for me. Ventures into the country. Velocipede was talking about bike rides to faraway places. My future was being mapped out…

I was a little cautious here. I was averaging about eight miles a day on the bike. Tour de France was not yet on my horizon.

Anyway, towards the end of January 2008 a pain developed between the thighs, just below the old meat and two veg. Gave me trouble sporadically when sitting down and riding. So, not to aggravate it further I stopped riding the bike for a week or so to see if it would heal itself. It did not, so I finally decided I would have to visit the doctor.

On the day of the appointment I was showed into see Dr Cheer, who grinned at me the minute I entered. I was not sure why he was so amused or what it was about the way I walked in that amused him, but I smiled politely back. Once he looked briefly away at his computer, I quickly checked my flies.

‘What’s the trouble?’ Dr Cheer asked, still smiling pleasantly.

I have always been a bit troubled by that sort of question from doctors. After all, it’s supposed to be them who do the diagnosis thingy?

I described the symptoms and then he asked if he could examine me. Well, anything for a laugh, me.

In the last few years I have seen doctors more than I have in the whole of my life put together and very rarely did the GP do much by the way of an examination in the past. Blood pressure check, but that was about all.

Still, thoroughness cannot be criticised in my view so I went off to the bed- thingy.

‘Right, drop the trousers and pants and lean forward on the bed.’

Ok, I will admit it, I did hesitate, I really did. It did not help when he put on the old rubber gloves. I had a horrible feeling what might be coming next. I could understand for hygiene purposes they have to do the rubber glove-thing; but both hands? What the hell was he going to get up to? Or indeed how far?

Still, I was glad I had taken a bath that morning. I was still nervous though. I mean, it was new territory to me, a bloke behind me while I have been bending over with the trousers and pants around the ankles. It was not a fun thing, although there might be a certain section of society that might disagree with me…um, so I have heard.

He began to poke and prodding near the anus and then below, a little further, then further…felt around a bit more and this time I was afraid he was going to extend his examination. Go the whole way; y’know, ‘open sesame’. A real eyeball bulging examination.

But no, he just covered old ground, so to speak and then got me to pull up the pants and trousers.

‘Can’t seem to feel anything…’

Move that hand a little more to the front and you will, I thought.

‘No lumps or anything sinister, probably a strained muscle,’ Dr Cheer said.

On reflection, it had not been too bad. I certainly got the right day for an examination round there. A couple of weeks ago, the old stomach had been playing up. A couple of prods then and I would not have been all that popular with Dr Cheer.

Dr Cheer gave me some tablets, something to deal with the muscle strain; things which would relax the muscle and let it heal.

So off I went, feeling a little happier.

It was six weeks before I got on the bike again, and then we were getting to the better weather and the Pink Lady’s plans for Sunday rides were coming to fruition.

Look out country folk, Fitrambler and the Pink Lady are on their way….