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!

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1: It Wasn’t The Drink, Honest!

 

Wednesday evening usually starts around 8pm where Neatentidy (a best friend of many years standing; known for his immaculate ways) gets a taxi to my house and from there we go to the first pub. Quite often the first hour is only us but after that we are joined by Pointyview (who has rather strong views on many a subject) and Movinon (who seems to always want to move on after each pint.).

We began at the Railway, Old Town, Swindon. From one of a selection of six beers we chose “Proper Job”. Forgot to check the brewery, though.

We talk a little on the new design of this very Blog – which from Neatentidy’s comments led me to believe I’ve got two readers. (It’s a start, it’s a start, ok! Little acorns and all that!)

I try to explain why I was doing it but sometimes explaining things can make them seem even more pointless than before you explained them…if you see what I mean?

In the end I settle for the fact I’ve got a lot of words trying burst out of my head and they needed to go somewhere, lots were siphoned off to the six books I’m at various stages with. The Blog seemed an appropriate home for the balance.

We moved on after Neatentidy finished his second pint and I my first (I’m not the drinker I once was). We are to meet the other two, Pointaview and Movinon in the Plough.

The Plough is an Arkells pub in Old Town, Swindon. Many years ago I loved Arkells, despite it’s reputation of going through the intestines and stomach rather like a sweep’s brush through a chimney.

I braved a pint in the Plough but not to my taste.

Soon Movinon and then Pointaview joined us and the conversations, as they do, fragmented. From work to cars, cars to beer, beer decorating…

According to type, Movinon, wanted to go elsewhere after the first pint. So we ended up back at the Railway, and Proper Job. Somehow, second time around it didn’t taste as good. In fact after a few sips and knowing I’d be leaving in less than half an hour I intended to bequeath the remains of the beer to Neatentidy; whereby he and Pointaview would go on for another hour.

By this time we’d got onto the subject of Laurel and Hardy. It was the one where Stan has been guarding a post on a island for some years after WWI. He’s found and put into a nursing home to much publicity and Ollie decides to visit. We’d got to the bit where there was a mix up over Stan’s legs and Neatentidy and myself were wheezing over it and the cough began and didn’t seem to want to stop…

After a minute my head felt ready to explode and I was going to try and take a swig of beer to dampen the cough, when….

Well, that’s it, I don’t know. Wednesday seemed to disappear. It was gone, over, home, other things were done, new days began and went, or so it felt…

Then…

For some reason, for a split second, I feel I’m in bed. Quite comforting, really, then it begins to get noisy and I open my eyes. I feel carpet next to my cheek and Neatentidy kneeling over me…

“Are you alright, Fitrambler?” he asks.

“Of course,” I respond, “Why am I on the floor?”

A young woman from the bar brings me a glass of water and asks if I’m alright? I say yes and drink the water gratefully. Although I admit to being a little shaken (not stirred) and surprised I didn’t actually hurt myself. The girl moves away and after a few seconds I wonder if she really belived it was the cough or just thought I was some old fart who couldn’t handle his drink anymore…

Although, I left feeling a little disorientated, I felt I was alright. That turned out to be a false dawn as I found on the way home when my left temple began to throb and by the time I slipped into bed my shoulder was aching like mad!

On the way home Movinon tells me they thought I was just messing about when I fell out of the chair…

Pratfalls in my fifties, I think not. I mean the old body just isn’t up to it these days!

Movinon convinced me I should see the doctor tomorrow. I was also annoyed that I broke my glasses in the fall. I was overdue for an eye-test, but kept putting it off. Now I hadn’t any choice. It was weird seeing most things around me as a blur, after only three pints!

As we said Goodbye, Movinon said ‘I hope you wake up in the morning…’

Hope you wake up in the morning? Hope you wake up…

As if I wasn’t worried enough. I’d passed out, the aches and pains were coming, thoughts about the expense of new glasses…Now he’d planned doubt about whether or not I’d get up in the morning! I mean, what if the bop on the nut was more severe than I thought? What if there was more damage – a nasty concussion? Maybe I was leaking blood already to the brain?

Aahhhhhhh!

All those thoughts went through my brain as I got into bed. I began to wonder if I should drag my copy of “War & Peace” off  and use it to fill in time until morning! No, too much trouble with the names of the characters. It’d been difficult enough getting through “I Claudius”, and “Claudius The God”, with all those Roman names!

Eventually, I turned the lights off – hoping my personal lights wouldn’t be turned off – and tried to get to sleep. It took about an hour but I managed it as tiredness defeated the fears!

Next morning, booked an appointment with the Optician’s for later that day and then got an emergency appointment with the doctor.

He checked me out and sort of agreed with my own diagnosis (obviously an intelligent man) but flowered it with technical terms (smarty pants). Excessive coughing (in layman’s terms) stopped any oxygen getting to the brain and shut something down that caused me to faint! Hmm. Faint? I prefer passing out, less girlie. He’d get me fixed up with an X-Ray, because I’d had the cough for so long; and then sent me away with a prescription for some liquid to ease the old throat.

Getting that at the Pharmacist’s almost led to my first (of two) muggings. The 500ml bottle would cost with the prescription £7.25! If I took the 200ml bottle, and didn’t use the prescription, however, £1.96. It was the proverbial no brainer!

Later at the Optician’s, I was having the eye test. You know how it works, half-blinded with a pencil flashlight, then asked to read things. After the tests, he asked what glasses I was using now.

“None,” says I.

“None,” replies he.

“None,” confirms I.

“With your eyes, you need glasses. I’m surprised you haven’t got any.” It was then I placed the two pieces in his hands. “Ah,” he said.

“Ah,” I replied, because I agreed with him. I quickly explained, however, offers to repair came there none!

He then finished the prescription for the glasses and took me downstairs to choose my frames. It was here that the second mugging came in. The young lady started to tot things up. I was expecting around £150.

“You want photo chromic lenses,” she said, to which I nodded (always did, saved on sunglasses. “Two pairs for the price of one..a pair for reading?” Again I nodded. “So, the optician recommends anti-glare?” I shrug and finally nod. “Anti-scratch?” I hesitate and then nod. “Then there’s the cost of the eye test.” To which I had no input.

Kerching!!!

“£266,” she says.

“£266,” I croak hesitantly. “Seems a lot compared to last time. Over one hundred and two quid more.”

She frowns, looks at the records, a little worried, and then smiles as she’s found the perfect out… “Ah,” she begins, and I lean a little nearer. “Last time the anti-glare was on special offer and the photo chromic lenses were free for a short time.”

The smile told me I should be grateful I didn’t pay that last time and so shouldn’t be so surprised to pay it now. She was a little put out that I wasn’t falling over with gratitude, kissing her hand, singing ‘Praise be,’ to the Company.

“I need to do a fitting for the glasses, so that we have the vari-focal lenses made correctly.”

For some reason I lingered on the word ‘fitting’ and part of my brain amended the phrase to ‘fitted up’ for the glasses to the tune of £266.00. Oh the pain, the pain of it all! It was becoming an expensive bash on the nut!

Finally, “Shall we go up and pay now…?” The ‘we’ therein, gave me false hope. She didn’t actually chip in a penny…

A few minutes after I left I got a text from Movinon. ‘Did you wake up that morning?’ For a second or two I lived with the hope that my visit to SpecSpenders was a nightmare…

Unfortunately, it wasn’t and my wallet was £266.00 lighter!

It’s quite amazing what comes back after an incident. I could compare my hitting the pub carpet to being drunk.

How so? Asks you?

Well, says I, sometimes (ok, all the time) an excessive amount of alcohol blots out a lot of what happened the night you guzzled it back. Often, bits and pieces are put together by the memory, and other bits by friends who may have shared the same volume of alcohol.

The same sort of thing applied to my passing out and hitting the pub floor (scoring high on Richter scale, I might add) where things come over a period of a few days. Like eleven days ago when the laughing and coughing fit starved the nut of oxygen, and then a second or two after grasping my pint, to refresh the throat, I’m out.

Dead to the world. For ten seconds, thereabouts.

I suppose the weird thing is that usually when I slip into unconsciousness it’s because I’m overcome by tiredness. But on those occasions, from falling asleep in the chair (more often these days as I get older) to just being overtired and getting my nut down late at night. However, the thing in coming with these things are that I usually dream, a sort of narrative that might not make sense, but something that is with me the moment I wake up and throughout the day, if I think back.

I have never passed out like I did in the Railway; not even in my high guzzling days with Blameworthy; that great man who introduced me to the delights of Real Ale when I’d all but given up beer.

Anyway, the night I dropped to the floor. Well, then, it was like nothing happened inside my head from the moment I was about to swig at my beer, to the moment Neatentidy was shaking me to see if I was alright. Even then, for milliseconds afterward, information started to come back slowly.
First, I concluded I was at home, in bed, and the Wednesday night was some time ago, even though there was no memory of its conclusion easily assessable. (This was incorrect.) Then, there was the realisation that I was lying on a carpeted floor, not in bed, which seemed to make more sense that Neatentidy was kneeling in front of me. More information trickled through in those milliseconds. The smell of beer, a familiar pub chair and the bloody annoying fact my glasses were in two pieces.

It was then that Neatentidy asked if I was ok and I answered. After that memories came back a lot faster. I was getting up when I saw a man, just below one of the televisions, thick grey-white hair, brushed back, leathered complexion, I guessed about late sixties. I remembered he was reading a paper long before I passed out, on his own, fresh pint in front of him. As I was getting up, that flashed through my mind and now the present, him still reading a newspaper, as though nothing had happened. Unlike others in the Railway, he seemed quite disinterested. What went through my mind was that he probably thought I was some ‘youngster’ who’d drank too much and suffered the embarrassing consequences for it; it was all beneath his interest.

Next thing, Neatentidy is helping me back to my feet. I note that my beer glass is in my hand empty. Fortunately, especially as I was wearing one of my best jackets, it’d spilt all over the floor and not on me. Well, pub carpets can take it; it’s a pub carpet occupational hazard. At least they didn’t have to contend with the cigarettes anymore.

As I was settling back into the chair, concerned comments coming from Movinon and Pointaview, I noticed the young girl from the bar. At first, I thought I might be thrown out for drunken behaviour, which would have been upsetting for Fitrambler, having only drank two pints and never been forcibly ejected from a pub in nearly thirty-seven years. Fortunately, it was concern and a glass of water she brought over.

Of course, since then, a lot of thought has passed through the noggin. Coughing particularly became something worrying rather than just irritating. Hitting the deck was not something I wanted to be a regular feature of my life.

I am happy to report that coughing occasionally makes me a little dizzy, but with the medicine I’m taking it’s become rare.

In my quieter moments, like walking to work, the experience did make me wonder whether it was like (often reported) near death experiences. Somehow I doubt it. But if it was, then…

No white light, no St Peter, white gown with flapping wings and a harp beckoning, just lights out, that’s your lot mate, hope you enjoyed it because you aren’t going to get another go!