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…

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!