21: The Morning After

Leaving the hotel....

Leaving the Hotel...

As befits a man of middle years I got up about three times in the night and each time reminded myself that I was in London. It was to stop myself from having a Patrick MaGoohan moment. However, one look out of the window would show me I wasn’t in a village I couldn’t recognised, with some over-grown balloon chasing me through the streets. Besides, I hadn’t resigned from my job as yet. Finally, at just after 9am, I got out of bed for the final time. Although I was up several time during the night the bed was surprisingly comfortable. I felt I could have slept on another couple of hours. I finished off the orange juice I bought last night, and decided to have as shower. It’d been a hot night. By the time I was dried and dressed I’d mapped out what I was going to do until my return train left at 2.27pm. One of the most important things was to get breakfast. It wasn’t included in the stay so I needed to find somewhere to eat. Yesterday, on the way to the hotel I’d spotted quite a few places to eat although most were mid-day and evening meals, so I wasn’t sure where I was going to have the breakfast or what I wanted, although the full English did cross my mind several times. One of the other things was to walk to Paddington at a reasonable pace so that I could have a good look round; I wasn’t sure when I’d get the opportunity to come to London again. I’d been to that part of London but it was some years ago, and I believe it was a booze-hound trip with Blameworthy. By about 2pm on such trips I’d be hard pressed to work out where I’d been all morning and be barely sober long enough to remember much about the evening with any geographical clarity… Ah, those were the days…The 1980s… It was the feeling of size that always went through my mind, the amount of floors the house had, the very width of them. Kensington High Streethad been no exception when I walked it yesterday. The there was the noise, the smell of car fumes and lots and lots of people. It’s always been a place I like to visit but I wouldn’t ever want to live there. It was 10.30am and my time was up in the hotel, time to check out and leave. As before I walked down half a dozen flights of steps, due to my phobia about lifts. I always felt they would get trapped between floors, which would be bad enough if they did, but going in a lift with someone you know… Well, friends tend to view me in slightly different light. It’s probably down to the way I stand in the corner of the lift, eyes two inches from the wall and whimpering incessantly throughout the ride…

Three attempts and still a car got in the way. The Goat.

It was a bright but cool morning and I decided I would get breakfast at the first place that took my fancy; somewhere not too busy. I set the iPhone to show me the most direct route and headed towards Paddington. I stopped a few times to take some pictures. Of course the ‘spoil-a-picture-taskforce’ was on hand to get in the way, so the potential for a decent photo was reduced to a bare minimum. I only managed a couple of shots of pubs in Kensington High Street, before I turned off to go through Hyde Park to Paddington. I did managed to get some decent pictures as I went through there, along with some of the Albert Memorial. Despite feeling hungry, it was approaching twelve midday and I still hadn’t eaten. Most of the places I passed either didn’t look open for business, just cleaning themselves after the previous night’s activities. I ended up in Paddington before I made my choice. There was an Angus Steakhouse, and for a while I toyed with the idea of combining breakfast and dinner. But on looking at the prices of the steak I settled for the full English. It seemed reasonable at around eight quid. I found a seat, although not by a window, gave me a view of the bright sunny outside world. Not overly picturesque, but certainly better than staring at a wall. I ordered the full English and an orange juice, then pulled out the old Kindle and downloaded the Sunday edition of the Independent. Thought I might as well catch up on what was happening in the world. There weren’t many people in the Steakhouse. There was a chap near to the door at a window seat. He was quite fidgety, and gripped a knife and fork in each hand, seemingly ready to tuck in as soon as the plate was shoved in front of him. He seemed to have that sort of look, the one you see in the eyes of monkeys at a zoo when they realise there’s humans outside with food. He made me feel I was glad I wasn’t the waiter; I would be in fear of losing part of my arm as soon as I put down the plate, if I didn’t move it back quickly enough. Of course, having an overactive imagination it also went through my mind that he was some sort of terrorist and had planted a bomb nearby and was just waiting for it to go off, just to see the results of his actions. Hence why he was so nervous. There were two others a few tables up from the nervy bloke. They were caught up in a really animated conversation. They made me think of the Eric Sykes film Rhubarb, Rhubarb, where all the people seem to be saying was, well, rhubarb. Except it was just noises I could hear, not really anything that sounded like words I could understand. I began to think the old lugs might need their regular rebore… The orange juice arrived, then ten minutes later the full English. I have to say it wasn’t as good as the breakfasts the Pink Lady and I have at Brooks in Highworth, but it wasn’t bad. Two hash browns, mushrooms, beans – in their own side dish -, egg, half a good sized tomato, sausage, short but fat and bacon, topped off with two slices of white bread toast. The bacon was quite thick and the sausage was really good. The Pink Lady, I believe, would have approved of the sausage; and believe me she’s fussy about the type of sausage that passes her lips! It was pleasant, a nice respite and with the sun shining I felt rather good. It made me wonder why I didn’t do things like this more often. I also reflected it would have been rather good if the Pink Lady could have come along. We could have extended both Saturday and Sunday; that is book an earlier train for arrival and a later train for departure.

The Pride Of Paddington

Unfortunately, the Pink Lady is not a fan of The Persuaders!Still, nobody’s perfect, so I’d made the arrangements without including her. The breakfast filled the gap rather well and I ordered an Americano afterwards. The coffee being rather good, I took my time over it and in between reading The Independent and watching the world go by. By now the nervy bloke had been served with his steak and was tucking into it as though it was his first meal in ages. Such gusto and enthusiasm must have served as a good advert for the Steakhouse. Although I’d been in there for around half an hour, the other animated blokes still hadn’t been served with food; still working their way through what looked like a couple of mineral waters; either that or half a bottle of vodka each… Of course, had they ate like they talked then must people around them and the windows would have been given a share in their meals. I paid up, the final bill coming to £13.25. It wasn’t bad, I thought as I packed up my things and left, not for London. Outside I checked my watch and found I had just under two hours to go before my train would leave. I decided to walk round, work off the breakfast and take some pub photos to take back to show Blameworthy…

The Dickens Tavern

The pattern was very much like earlier, every time I tried to take a photo cars or vans got in the way. Bloody things; damn well think they own the roads! Still, I suppose, if the quality turns out ok then a little messing about in Photoshop might correct the problem. One photo, the one of the Dickens Tavern, I rather caught a young woman by surprise. Probably who the old fart was with the camera; either that or frightened she’d just got herself a stalker…

The Mitre

As it came up to 1pm, I realised I’d been on my feet – with a half hour exception in the Angus steakhouse – for about three hours. I needed to find somewhere to sit, especially as it’d clouded over and was beginning to spit with rain. I found a spot quite quickly and sat down. From a shop on the way I bought a thin notebook and wrote up a little about this weekend. I should have brought the iPad with me for making notes on but I didn’t want to leave it unattended in the hotel. While I was there a touch of mischief descended on me and I bought a stamp and a postcard. I found a post box, wrote out a message to the Pink Lady and sent it. I felt it might amuse.

The Sawyers Arms

It began to rain, and didn’t stop for about twenty minutes. Luckily bench I was on was under a tree; I kept quite dry. I completed some blog notes and about fifteen minutes later the clouds moved away and the sun was out again. It was about twenty minutes after this I was in Paddington station. Not as clouded as yesterday but crowded enough. As I checked the train times I decided I needed a coffee, which was a little bit of a mistake because I then saw food; hunger suddenly echoed in the old brain box, although probably a fake hunger and I succumbed to an Italian meat ball sub, coated with a tomato and herb sauce. The departure boards told me that the train was now ready for boarding and I went to find my seat… It was time to go home. I told myself I should make a trip to London more often…

20: Moore To See

I suppose it really hit home when I opened the letter from Lord Brett Sinclair, with the Gold Napoleon ticket inside. I was going. So, confirmed I made the arrangements to go to London on the 10th September…

The Letter From Lord Brett Sinclair

So when I left home on the 10th I felt as though I was well organised; nothing left to chance. It was 11.45 and I was over half way to the Swindon Train Station. It was then, as I checked my iPhone for messages, I realised the charge was down to 65%. I would need to charge that when I got to the hotel…

Then I remembered I hadn’t packed my charger!

I thought about going back but decided against it. It would have meant a hurried journey to the Station. Also, I was sure it would last until I got home tomorrow…well, fairly sure….well, ok, I did not think I would need it urgently if it ran out…

I was off to London and I could not remember the last time I went to London. Well, if you do not include Paddington Station, where I stopped a couple of times this year to wait for a tube train to take me to the Greenford arm of the Company I work for.

I used the service where you collect your tickets from the machine at the station. I have to admit I am not over impressed with the bloody things. I mean, what if they had a tantrum and decided not to give you your tickets…

Well, it was funny I should mention that. I looked at the booking number on my iPhone note pad, Then I put my debit card in and nothing. The option to buy or collect never came up.

Great!

Out came the debit card and I tried again….and again….and again….and again. The Corporal Jones in me was beginning to surface…

Finally, after trying every conceivable way of putting the card in, it worked with the way I put it in the first time.

Cheers!

I entered the number only to be told it was not recognised. Three more tries and the machine had obviously got its sight back because it recognised the number I keyed and the message came up:

“Please wait for your tickets.”

As if I needed to be told!

I moved away from the machine. I was now suspicious and decided to check the tickets before I went any further. Were they all there, were they printed correctly? After what I had been through my confidence level was not high.

Now the second hurdle of the day. I got to the machine stations had put in all over the country whose only purpose, from my experience, is to assist passengers to miss their trains. Of all the journeys I have made since they installed the bloody things only twice has the ticket opened the barriers; nearly every time the guard has to let me through with his over-ride ticket.

The same thing happened today and I got about twenty feet from the machine when I was called back. Time was running out and the last thing I needed was some officious guard…

“Sir, sir,” she cried.

I turned round rather impatiently and I noticed she was holding something, but didn’t really register what it was.

“Is this your wallet,” she asked

“No,” was my first answer, then I looked more closely. It was!

My manners improved here, somewhat, and I thanked her after telling her some of the things that were in it. That was careless and could have made a big difference to the day I had planned out.

I thank her a couple of times more and then dash off to the platform.

The weather, when I got up looked quite bright, now it was dull. As I waited on the Station, I wondered if I would regret not bringing a my Columbo style raincoat. I shrugged. It was too bloody late now.

The train turned up on time – a pleasant surprise – and having got a reserved seat I did not hurry too much. I was placed on an Aisle seat and was next to some chap who was reading a football magazine. A little further up the train were some youths wearing football shirts.

I began to think. Why did they do that, wear football shirts? I suppose it was a tribal thing; bit like national flags. I looked at an overweight, seat busting chap, thinking how big the sizes must go up to? An injury in their favourite team and suddenly there is an announcement:

“Will the fat bastard in the team shirt report to the team manager…he’s needed to replace our star striker!”

Hmm. Ok. Too much time on my hands…

I decided to read for the hour or so I would be on the train. I removed my Amazon Kindle and opened up ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Ian Fleming; the last Bond novel written by the original author. Over the last couple of months I had been re-reading all the James Bond books again.

The train journey passed by quite quickly, and as we drew into Paddington I looked out of the window to see high-rise flats, most of which displaying the week’s laundry over the balcony. One had a bike. I thought about living in one of those high rises, especially with my fear of lifts and insistence on taking the stairs. By the time I would have got the bike down all those flights of stairs I would have been too tired to ride it!

Again, I avoided the rush and stayed seated until most people piled off. Then, once on the platform I needed the toilet. I found it quite quickly and looked at the price. Thirty pence.

Hey ho!

I got in, walking to the left, which the sign says is the way in. By the turnstile where you put your money in, is a chap, in a chair, looking relaxed.

“Go in the other way,” he says.

“Thought this was the way in,” I smiled.

“It is, but you need to go in through the way out.”

“Right…” I said, dubiously. I had never been one for riddles…

I turned round and went to the way out and got to the turnstile. I could not get my coins in because it was blocked with coins. I fiddled with it for a good ten minutes, the pressure in my bladder increasing. I was rapidly approaching the Red Indian war-dance stage of wanting to go.

Then some chap from behind just strolled through the turnstile. It was not locked and dependent on coins to release it. I watched two other blokes walk through before the urge in me focused my mind and I dashed in and to the nearest cubical, nearly knocking down to other blokes on the way. When you have got to go, you have got to go!

I stood there for around three minutes or more, my eyes glazed over as I emptied my bladder. The simple pleasures in life are often the best…

Once out of Paddington Station the changeable weather decided sun. I could live with that. I figured it might be a good idea to check out exactly where the venue for my evening in London was in relation to my hotel. I wanted to make sure I would allow enough time to get there later; I hate to rush.

I put the postcode in on the iPhone map app and it plotted the route for me, telling me how far and how long it should take me on foot. The positive was the route took me through Hyde Park, a lot of people about either jogging or walking. There were quite a few families about and events which seemed to be catering for them.

It was Kent House in Rutland Gardens that I was looking for. After thirty minutes or so I found it, tucked down a side-street, with a barrier and gatehouse vetting the cars who came and left.

A Nice Walk To The Venue Via Hyde Park

At around 6pm tonight it would be hosting an event for a company called Network. It was through this Company over the last half-dozen or so years that I managed to collect numerous DVD collections of some of my favourite ITC series of the sixties and seventies. Series like The Saint, The Champions, Man In A Suitcase and many of the Gerry Anderson TV Series along with The Sweeney.

Tonight I would be attending the launch of the 40th Anniversary of The Persuaders! To mark this event there would be a showing of two episodes of the new digitally re-mastered series. The two episodes had been chosen by Sir Roger Moore, who would be at the event that night and was probably the main reason I decided to go.

At the entrance to Rutland Gardens was a gatehouse with a guard working the barrier. I decided to make sure I was at the right place so went and spoke to him.

“Hello,” I said, being all for original openings. “But is Kent House down there?”

“Yes, sir, first building.”

“I’m attending an event by Network DVD tonight…”

The guard frowned. That caused a tingle to run the length of my spin. Had I got it wrong? Surely not? I checked my ticket – probably for the hundredth time. No, it was all set up for today…

The Gold Napoleon Ticket

“Yes, it’s being attended by Sir Roger Moore…” I said, old name dropper me.

Another frown, then a “Really.”

He looked up a list, then smiled at me. “Ah yes, hadn’t noticed that before. I only got on an hour or so ago. We don’t get told in advance. His driver is booked in. He’s been here before for some other event, some sort of awards, I think.”

It was my turn to say: “Really?”

“Yes, very nice bloke.”

“I’ve heard that,” I replied.

“Yes, that night he’d been inside for a couple of hours and then came out with a plateful of food and a drink for the driver outside. Didn’t have to bring it himself, could’ve sent someone else.”

We talked for a couple of minutes then I decide to walk to the hotel. It’s this part of the journey I needed to measure for that evening. It was now 1.30pm. I programmed the iPhone and by coincidence it was around two miles to the Hotel.

The bulk of the journey was quite straightforward, along Kensington High Street. About forty minutes later I found the turn-off just eight minutes after it had turned cloudy again and began spitting with rain.

I checked in at the hotel and found the room to be cramped with bunk bed, metal but felt comfortable; the bathroom was a small room with a toilet, basin and shower. One window, about eight inches square. It was open and let in little air. The room was stuffy and I was feeling hot.

I took a quick shower and decided the room was not a place to hang around in. The weather had brighten a little so I thought I would go for a stroll. It was less than ten minutes before I would be on Kensington High Street where the shops were.

I suddenly realised I had not eaten since 9am, so bought a couple of sandwiches, a drink and a Snickers bar. I know how to live!

The event called for formal attire and I had dressed in jacket trousers, shirt with tie but my footwear was the walking trainers. I had brought along my only pair of shoes. Heavy and steel toe-capped. They were uncomfortable like most shoes I had worn in my life. However, needs must…as some chap once said…

So around 16:45, with the shoes on I begin the walk, deciding as soon as I find a cash point I would take a bus, I managed to work out they ran regularly up and down Kensington High Street.

However, by the time I found a cash point which would give me my money without having to pay for the privilege I was almost fifty percent of the way there. I walked the rest as well and get to the venue twenty-two minutes early. But I got a few pub shots on the way; even if everyone seemed to try to get in on the photograph.

My feet were already beginning to hurt, and there was at least three hours or more to go. I hoped there was seating inside other than the screening room.

It was 17:38 when I got there, very much on time. The reception was at 18:00, the two episode viewing was supposed to be at 18:45.

About ten minutes later myself and other Gold Napoleon ticket holders were called in. A majority of the people seemed to have come in seventies gear; as suggested but fortunately was not compulsory.

In eight minutes the crowd started to move then a woman calls out if the Gold Napoleon Ticket holders would like to come to the front…

Other Side Of The Gold Napoleon Ticket

The time-table was changed, as I along with other Gold Napoleon ticket holders, walked in. Sir Roger Moore was to sign the copies of the Box Set. As I queued I got to see the original Aston Martin DBS, that Roger Moore drove as Lord Brett Sinclair. The boot was open and in was signed by both Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.

Maleclipboard checked by name and let me through and Femaleclipboard took me to the room where Sir Roger Moore was signing The Persuaders! Blu Ray box sets.

As I entered the large room I saw the man himself. In front of me in the queue was a bloke who told me the man to Sir Roger’s left was his PA. Much to his delight, my fellow queue mate saw another bloke stood in front of the desk where Sir Roger was seated, signing box sets. He was taking each person’s camera or camera-phones and taking pictures. Although a lot less outwardly demonstrative than my queue mate, I was pleased that there was an opportunity to get my photo taken with the man himself…

I had not brought my camera as I had read the blurb when the ticket arrived which indicated no cameras. However, all was not lost as my iPhone has got a perfectly good 5 megapixel camera which should do a good enough job. So, as my turn arrived I handed over my iPhone to the bloke in front of the desk and handed over the box set to Sir Roger Moore and showed him where I would like him to sign it.

The Signed Blu Ray Folder.

“Thanks for such an entertaining blog and your work in the children’s charity,” said Sir Roger to me.

I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I didn’t think you read my blog?”

“Ah, you’ll be surprised,” he responded…

I woke up from the daydream. Yep the last bit of dialogue was a lie…

I said a few words, none of which were what I planned, and then moved on after getting back my iPhone.

It was then onto the reception room. I was given a glass of Champagne and then mingled amongst a bigger crowd than I would have expected. There were sandwiches, small cut without crusts available. There were egg and cress, chicken and Caesar salad, Brie and cranberry – not a proper cheese as far as I’m concerned, rather tasteless but the cranberry was ok though – beef and mustard. I ate about 12; but they were no more than 1.5 mouthfuls each…well I was hungry and had done quite a bit of walking that day!

After twenty minutes or so my feet and back were killing me; a combination of the walk to the venue and walking around the room with only two chairs and both of them in use by disable chaps. What made it worse was there were quite a few people wearing trainers! I need not have caused myself such grief!

The Cover For The First Release of The Persuaders! In The 80s

I drank about two and half glasses of the bubbly, then went onto orange juice and was relieved when they announced the episode screenings. A chance to rest the old dogs…

In the viewing room was quite a big screen. In front of it was a small stage and I did not need to be a detective to work out it was for the question and answer session after the screenings.

Once most people were seated, I got a bit of shock when Barry Norman came onto the stage and explained there was to be a change in the schedule. They would show the first episode then there would be a Q&A session which Barry Norman would moderate. Then the second episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore would be shown.

I was surprised Barry Norman was there, even more surprised to hear his high praise for Sir Roger, especially as behind the man’s back Norman was quite critical. Thinking about it, perhaps I should not have been surprised as he had always tended on the hypercritical in my opinion.

The first episode was shown and I enjoyed the novelty of seeing it on the Big Screen. Of course, it would have been better had people not insisted on holding up their mobile cameras at various intervals but there we go, for every advantage of today’s devices there are disadvantages.

So through the first ever televised episode of The Persuaders! (Overture) we went. It looked rather good up on the big screen. Projected from a Blu Ray player using one of the box sets.

The Q&A’s came. After regularly watching Barry Norman’s Film programme over the years, hearing the way he ran down old Sir Rog, I was quite surprised at his gushing praise for the man now…or was I? Years of watching his Film ‘whatever year’ programme should have prepared me for his ‘style’.

Anyway, despite Barry Norman’s probing, trying to dig up the ‘dirt’, so to speak, about things like Sir Roger’s working relationship with Tony Curtis, Sir Roger never dished out the dirt only the positive. It was the same with Sir Roger’s autobiography, where he made it clear from the outset his biography, ‘My Word Is My Bond’ was not going to be seedy revelations…

The Persuaders! Annual: Nearly 40 years old.

Once Barry got his questions in he generously allowed others from the audience to ask questions before the introduction to the second Persuaders! episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore.

The session must have gone on for forty minutes at least and ended with a standing ovation. I was one of the first three to stand up. I would like to say it was purely because I enjoyed it but that was only part of it. My arse was dead and standing up helped restore the blood supply.

Quite a few people left with the exit of Sir Roger Moore. But despite my protesting arse, I stayed on to watch the second episode ‘A Death In The Family’. I probably would not get the chance to see any episodes on the big screen again.

After the episode I left. My feet and arse were still killing me so I decided I would take the bus, it would drop me off near enough to the hotel to give the dogs only a short walk.

I bought a litre of orange juice and two Oatmeal bars in a shop before getting back to the hotel, tired. I drank half the orange juice, ate the bars and then went to bed; which was surprisingly comfortable.

As I drifted off I reflected on an episode of Inspector Morse, the one where he meets one of his heroes of Opera. It turned out to be a great disappointment to him; as did most things for him, which was why he (probably) was such a misery guts. I felt rather luckier than that because I had met one of my heroes and he had turned out to be very much as I imagined he would be…

Of course, it was a brief meeting in very amiable circumstances, but still, it was nice to be left without disappointment….

 

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!

Hmm?

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!