Forest Row Bike Club

Ride Report

Hassocks - 31st August 2008

I didn't see anything, hear anything, or feel anything. But I woke up to find that they'd been during the night and injected molten lead into my legs, and whilst I gradually awoke, it had solidified in my veins. So my short-lived period of going like Thomas The Tank Engine may be all over. Well it was today anyway. Not only that, but as I slowly emerged into the land of the living, I swear I heard thunder in the distance. And yesterday had been wall-to-wall sunshine all day. The Met Men (or Women) had got it a tad wrong. Drizzle softly fell, beginning at the exact moment that I got my bike out. For the second week, "Bugger!".

I arrived at FR damply, having looked over my shoulder several times on the way in case the childish Graham tried to creep up on me and childishly overtake me just before I reached the Forest Row sign. I 'Hurrahed' in a very unchildish way as I reached the sign before he did, and arrived at the bike shop to meet Ron and Gordon. Graham arrived after me, not that that is important, and with the lovely Kate soon after. Andrew was still, apparently, lying in bed. Ian was outside his shop, which is a bit unusual at this time. He explained that there was a Sportif event on today, arranged by (I think) The Surrey Road Club, and one of the feeding stops was to be in the Forest Row car park, so he'd opened early.

"I've arranged to meet Steve on the way", said Ron, "You all go on and we'll meet you up the road". Ron couldn't dissuade me from going with him, so off we all went in two opposite directions. I distinctly heard Ron saying 'Upper Hartfield' into his phone, but when we arrived there, there was no Steve to be seen. Crossed wires obviously, and several muddled phone calls later, it transpired that Steve had given up and gone home to a hot cup of tea, so Ron and I made our way across country to meet Graham, Kate and Gordon at what used to be Sarita's Café at North Chailey. On route, at the top of the Ashdown Forest, I was heartened to see loads of cyclists with numbers on their backs whizzing past us. This was the cycling event that Ian had been talking about. They weren't going so fast that I couldn't recognise two individuals that I'd been cycling with during the week. Small world! Graham, Kate and Gordon had been at the café for probably an hour by the time we got there, but Ron and I needed a drink, and I, an additional piece of cake, so the others graciously waited for a nano-second while it all disappeared down our throats. Soon, of course, we had to make a move, and we emerged into the damp air once more, although it was not too much hardship as it was exceedingly mild.

After a shortish while we turned left, just short of Wivelsfield Green, and down through Streat, a lovely lane, except this time it was liberally strewn with a certain by-product of cows, and they must have walked for a couple of miles along it I guess. This lane heads directly towards the huge fold of earth which is the South Downs, spectacular and beautiful, and scary if you think you have to climb up over it. We all knew that we were going to turn right alongside it, however, and therefore had an air of couldn't-care-less about us. It was at this point that we started to split up. Ron, Kate and Graham left first. Gordon was faffing about a bit less than me, and started off next. Just as I had completed offloading an amount of unrequired liquid, another bloke on a bike appeared. Ah, someone to talk at, I immediately thought. Now, I know you won't believe this, but a) I could hardly get a word in edgeways, and b) he was really interesting. (I must try this listening lark again one day. But not yet.). It was just after Richard, for that was his name, had left me, that I received a telephonic communication from Ron, asking where the h**l I was. He decided from my location that I was going to arrive at the café at Hassocks before everyone else, as they had taken a short detour. I did too, and for the first time forever, I ate my breakfast before the others, and could then speak uninterrupted whilst they still had their mouths full. Haha.

I had noticed that the lovely Kate had mentioned that it was wet. Then that it had stopped, but she had put on her wetproof top so it was hot. Then she had taken it off , but that it had started raining again. I had invited her, a couple of times to "Stop whining, woman", and finding myself still conscious, continued that I was going to buy a notepad to record all her moans in. Her loving husband Graham suggested that 2 notebooks would be a more suitable number. The bounder! (I thought 3).

Once outside the café, we retraced our steps along more or less the same route, enjoying the same lanes backwards. It's surprising what a difference this makes to the scenery, as any of you who have cycled backwards will know. We arrived at the bottom of Ditchling Beacon, and the group had planned to go straight on, but I perversely decided that I would turn right and ascend the beast. I heard Kate enquiring "Why are you going up there if you're so tired?". Cussedness perhaps, who knows?, but up it I was going to go. Halfway up I had the urge to look behind in case the cunning Graham had decided to follow. Silly me, there he was looking lean and mean. And I hadn't even heard him breathing. I tried to chat to him in a friendly fashion, and stupidly I thought it had worked, but as we approached the summit, he went past me as if I was standing still, (I almost was), and claimed his victory. A whizz back down, and a couple of miles of hanging onto Graham's back wheel had us all back together in a group.

I found myself alongside Ron, with Gordon up ahead. Just then a huge 4x4 came screaming at our derrières, and when it had pushed past the two of us, the inconsiderate wretch at the wheel came up behind Gordon and honked him out of the way. What is the matter with some people? He sped into the distance, and just then I was treated to the beautiful sight of an Emperor dragonfly flitting along the road in front of us at much the same speed as us, displaying its iridescent green and blue body in the pale, watery sunlight. I was chuffed, and I bet the ****** in the 4x4 will never appreciate what he's missing. Pity. (Did you know that the Emperor dragonfly has 2 pairs of wings, all of which it can beat independently of each other at a fantastic rate, and can therefore fly forwards, backwards or hover in one position, and it is carniverous? Be grateful it is only as big as a very tiny toy helicopter).

Just after this, when we'd caught Gordon, I decided to explain to him all the foregoing stuff about 4x4 drivers, dragonflies and missed opportunities, and he looked at me, and pronounced "Keep talking, I can't hear a word you're saying". At which point Graham, who'd crept up on me again, enquired "Would it make any difference?". It's a conspiracy.

Back at Horsted Keynes, (wherever did that name come from?), Gordon disappeared into a pub saying he was going for water. I remember he pulled the same stunt last week. You don't fool me, Gordon. Anyway, I took the opportunity for a little sit down on a bench nearby, and I was joined by Kate. Now, what red-blooded male could resist having a little cuddle in such a circumstance. And I like to believe that Kate was just beginning to swoon, when a gift from above splatted onto one of her lovely knees. We looked up to see a rather large bird, probably a vulture, looking very relieved as it sat on a telephone wire directly above Kate's knee. I admit I am no ornithologist, but I swear it had the avian equivalent of a grin on its beak.

And so to Wych Cross, where Gordon turned off to avoid the main road, and Ron said he was going straight home. "OK Graham, last one to Java and Jazz pays for the coffees". He was all confident 'cos of how tired I was, but pride was at stake. I rode like there was no tomorrow, but despite a death defying zoom across the roundabout I was to be robbed at the last second by him coming up on my blind side. We chose our seats outside the café and were just about to sit down, when we were very apologetically informed that it was just closing, and would we sling our hooks? Never mind, a moral victory is sweet enough.

John.


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