Christmas Lunch, Withyham, 14th.December,2014.


It is 1 o’clock in the morning, it’s minus 3°C and I’m in bloody Bognor. I only agreed to change my duty as the boss said he’d get  me back to Horsham by taxi, and it isn’t here.


Well, it came after only another 25 freezing minutes, so I was back to Horsham by 10 past 2, another 5 minutes to scrape the ice off of the car and break the icicle off by dose, and I was back home and in bed by 3am.


Now you probably all know by now that Don has been told not to do anything alone for a while, and I am honoured to say that he asked me to accompany him whilst he rode from his home to the Christmas lunch. So a short while later I turned up in my car at the appointed hour, and we had a cup of tea whilst getting ready, competing to see who could get the most stories in whilst the other was drawing breath. Don was resplendent in a new fluorescent cycling jacket, and in case that wasn’t enough, I fixed a light to his handlebars as we were likely to be coming back in the dark. Once Don was ready to get under way, I took my bike out of my car, began to put on the several layers of clothes I’d brought with me, and noticed Don nimbly riding up the sharpish hill that is Nightingale Close. “He’s just warming up”, I thought. “He’ll be waiting at the top”. So I continued to dress as hastily as I could.


Not many minutes later I had finished, and made my way to the top of the hill. No sign of Don. Since I had promised Christa faithfully that I would look after him, and had lost him after no more than about 100 yards, I was not a little disconcerted. A left turn and a short whizz to the end of Hurst Farm Road should do it, I thought, but still no Don. “Blimey, he’s gone up West Hill already”, was what occurred to me, so going much faster than I’d intended, attacked the second hill of the day, not  even having gone a mile yet. It was then that two things came into my mind. Firstly, I am nowhere near as fit as I should be, and secondly, the temperature has climbed considerably this morning, and I don’t need several of these layers on.


Now Don had mentioned that he needed to get some money out of a hole-in-the-wall, so I guessed that he would be somewhere in London Road or the High Street doing just that. There are a lot of holes-in-the-wall along those roads, and I’d inspected all of them with no result.   With mounting anxiety at the thought of a rapidly approaching Christa who would be wielding an axe, I stopped outside Sackville College and thought of phoning Don. Now Don has just taken delivery of a tricky new mobile phone. He’d been showing it to me that very morning. I leapt to a conclusion which didn’t please me. Being a little older than 15 years, he will be unable to work the wretched thing, (just like I was when I took delivery of my identical one), and I’d still be in deep do-do. “Hallo John”, I heard, “I’ve just phoned you and left you a message. Don’t you know how to use your phone?”. Thank you Don, ha flipping ha!.


Don was back at his house, with one shoe on. Don’t ask, I’ll tell you. Don had taken a head start to get warmed up, and gone in the opposite direction to the one I’d taken. Approaching the end of Dunnings Road, and nearing the top of the hill, he had realised that he was unable to take his foot out of his pedal, and fearing the worst, had mounted the  pavement and come to rest against an electrical junction box, no doubt placed there for that very purpose. Being ever resourceful, and still unable to extricate the offending shoe from the pedal, he had done the obvious thing and removed the shoe from his foot, thus walking home about half a mile with only the one on his other foot.


He was standing there, totally unfazed when I returned to hear the whole story. I set about sorting out the problem, when a lovely neighbour of Don’s rushed in, having heard over the fence the words ‘fallen off’. She must know Don well. On this occasion, however, he had just been replying to me on the phone that he hadn’t fallen off, so that was alright.



Neighbour having done her stuff, she departed. I had by now determined that the problem had been with Don’s shoe and not the bike, so while he sorted out another pair, I quickly rang Christa who answered in a panic. “It’s alright, Christa, no problem. We had a mechanical, but we’re on our way”. She sounded mightily relieved.


From then on it was all plain sailing. Don set off again up Nightingale Close, and we headed straight for the A22, Don pointing out the saviour junction box on the way. Hartfield road followed, and we chatted and laughed when we could ride abreast, except when the breath was scarcer climbing Shepherd’s Hill, you know, the one than goes up from Coleman’s Hatch past the church. And before we knew it, we had arrived at the Dorset Arms, where a few bikes were locked up outside, and a lovely young choir was gathered round the door singing Christmas carols.


Inside, ready to eat, were Graham and Kate (with her crutches out of the way under the table), Ron and Val, Stuart and Eliana, Tony and Val, Zoё and Steve, John and Joanna, Dave, Christa, Martha, Jane, Christine, Gordon and Ros. Twenty-one of us in all.


As far as I could tell, we all had a fine Christmas lunch, lots of chatter and loads of laughs, and then Ron was presented with a card and a collage of photographs to thank him for all his hard work forming the FRBC and arranging our rides for many years. Thank you Ron, very much.


Bills were paid, goodbyes were said, and Don and I set off for home. Soon we had need of the lights we had on our bikes as dusk fell. Don seemed to be riding briskly, so much so that when we reached Forest Row, he suggested going up Wall Hill, “to see how far up I can get”. I hadn’t bargained for that, but up we went, and without wavering, reached the top.

All that remained now, was the mainly downhill stretch to Don’s house, more tea, more laughs, and a journey to Christa’s with a collection of more of Don’s belongings to be stored at her house. But that is another story...........