Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Christmas Lunch - 4th December 2016

I awoke. So far so good. Having been going like a dead donkey lately, I was surprised to be feeling substantially different this morning. It seems like they’ve dug up the donkey, massaged it, then injected it with steroids. Well, I felt like that, but without the massage. Or the steroids.

Outside it was only just above freezing, but I didn’t notice the cold as I went out because my boiler has been out of action for a week. However, there is no bad weather, so they say, only bad clothing. I was dressed to the nines. (I must look up where that phrase comes from).

I’d forgotten how scared of ice on the road I’ve become since my last crash, so I kept out a wary eye all the way to FR. Now, I’ve been cycling to FR to meet the club for a dozen or more years, each time passing Trex’s house, and not one single time have I ever chanced to bump into him leaving for our ride. True, he’s only been coming for a bit less than two years, but that’s not the point. The point is that today I left especially late, just like he does, to see if I’d meet him at his gate for once. And Hey Presto! I didn’t. Had I overdone it? Was he there before me? Turns out he wasn’t coming at all. Trex, sincerely, you were missed.

I can’t remember in which order we arrived, but I know Graham was there already, as he immediately reminded me that as my birthday had recently passed, he is now officially younger than me again. Numerically true maybe, but I have far more hair, fewer wrinkles, more allure, more girlfriends, and I can make up far larger whoppers too. When someone pointed out that I hadn’t shaved this morning, Sienna kindly pointed out that I was merely going for the rugged look, but Graham, I don’t actually have to.

We set off up Priory Road, Graham, Sienna, Martha, Steve, Jane and myself. I was puffing like a steam train, though not going as fast, and when we finally arrived at the top, Steve opined that it was a pleasant change to go at such a civilised pace for a change. I don’t know if Graham and Sienna would agree with that, having waited for we others at the top.

We turned off into Chilling Street as we often do, but then had to take a left-hand fork, which we practically never do. Graham said we should take an earlier turning, and I agreed with him, but Steve correctly informed us that it was a bit further along, and chided us both for relying on sat-navs. I can only commend him for resisting the urge to gloat.

That turn-off took us down into the depths, from where we had to cross a small ford before climbing up to Coleman’s Hatch. Just after the ford, though, I wondered if I was hallucinating. Was it? Could it be? Yes, there was a black bullock standing serenely in the centre of the lane. As we approached, it didn’t seem to know what to do. It’s brother was the other side of a wire fence, so how it had got out is a mystery. I had the idea of guiding it back somehow into its field, but as I began to dismount, it ran off to be nearer to its brother, but defiantly still in the lane. Time to leave. Climbing the hill, I began to think of Tommy Steele and his song ‘Little Black Bull’, for those of you old enough to remember. Actually, it was a good job that it was black, or Trex, if he was here, may have thought it was an incredibly large sheep. (See a previous report).

Avoiding the ice across the lane, we persisted upwards to Coleman’s Hatch and thence to the A22. We took the turning where but a few weeks ago, Trex had decided to kiss the tarmac. Indeed, there was still the imprint of his lips there, in much the same way that the footprints of film stars are preserved on the pavement in Hollywood.

Having climbed up onto the Ashdown Forest, Jane had the super idea of taking a photo of us all in front of a car park sign. The point of this, and a very good one I think, was that the car park was called ‘Friends’. Graham had zoomed off too far ahead, so was absent. Jane was too, as she took the photo. That is until she showed it to us at lunch, when she appeared in the photo in the form of a great shadow, which she assured us that husband Mike would be able to remove with the aid of Photoshop.

We arrived at Greenfingers, the café at the garden centre just above Duddleswell. It was warm and welcoming and we all downed a hot coffee of our choice before resuming our not-too-arduous journey. We were behind schedule, however, so our taskmaster decreed that we would cut out the planned loop, and head directly for the lunch stop. No-one demurred. (Our Leader is so masterful).

Having locked our bikes up outside, we entered the welcoming atmosphere of the Gallipot, where we met Zoë, Kate, Dave, Gordon, John and Joan, Christine, Sally, Ros, Tony and Val, and made our greetings. Soon we took our seats for our Xmas Lunch, crackers were pulled, hats were donned, and silly jokes were read out. I don’t know about you, but I thought my lunch was absolutely splendid, and couldn’t even go near my second course. I did just have room, however, for the lovely glass of wine bought for me by a certain northern lady, and which I quaffed appreciatively. And I’ve got a tiny model plane to put together later, from my cracker.

Noise abounded all around from people enjoying themselves. Terrific. Sienna let her guard drop for a moment, and asked me about the memorable moments of my nine year career on the railway. I took a deep breath and began to answer. “Just the highlights will do”, she clarified. “Well, in year one”, I began, and she suddenly dived under the table. I don’t know why, maybe she dropped her purse or something.

Martha’s son Nick, the manager of the Gallipot, had still not been well enough to be in charge, but we had been well catered for. I hope he will be well again before long. All too soon it was time to leave. Jane’s husband, Mike, he of the Photoshop skills, arrived to take her home, and everyone else began their preparations to leave.

Normally after a lunch stop, as you know, it is very cold starting off, and difficult to get the legs moving again. Today, though, because it had been a lengthy lunch, and lovely and warm in there, I was raring to go, for a dead donkey. Thus I was able to glide past Graham to claim the Upper Hartfield sign, and even if it did cause me to grovel the rest of the way back to FR, it was worth it.

Martha nagged me to put my bike lights on, quite rightly, and nagged me again at her turn-off to put on my reflective jerkin before continuing home. As I grovelled up Wall Hill with the light fading, I privately acknowledged how right she was, although I’d never tell her that.

Making my way home, the darkness fell, and I was once again scared of falling off if there was any ice. I didn’t, though, as here I am sitting at home with my electric fan heater on high, a beer on the table in front of me, and a promise from the boiler man to come and fix my heating tomorrow. Bliss!

Happy Christmas,

John


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