Quite strong numbers at the Cross on Sunday for a ride to Durleighmarsh: Sam leading, with myself, Michael, Paul, Maureen, Russell and The Return of the Jeff, after a very long break, during which the Jeff Reconstruction Service has been busy on a general refurbishment, which made us the Magnificent Seven. Maureen pointed out that Sam should enjoy it, as he was leading so wouldn’t need to keep barging in with demands for changes of route, though the rest of us thought he was more than capable of causing an argument about it anyway, though I must admit he did a sterling job of avoiding the myriad of floods.
It was a bit breezy, but actually less so than most of the time of late, quite dry, and though cold it soon warmed up. We set off via Clay Lane and Watery Lane to Compton. Over coffee we formed a committee to solve the coronavirus problem. Russell chaired as he has sat on real committees containing threatened pandemics before, so patiently explained the science behind it all, the gist of which as far as I could see was “We’rrrre doomed”. Paul thought we might be allright as we are fit with cycling, but Russell squashed that with “Noooo Laddie, we’rrre Dooomed I say, Dooomed.” Maureen thought she might be alright by wearing gloves, while Sam, rather frivolously I thought in the circumstances, concentrated on getting a tiny number crisps from the waiting staff. The First Lady he asked laughed politely, if slightly hysterically, and scarpered before Sam got dangerous, but he repeated his demands even more forcefully to a Second Lady who arrived with my coffee. No he didn’t want a packet of crisps, he explained, as that would be like just buying a packet of crisps (“yes well that’s exactly what you’ve just asked for isn’t it, some bloody crisps?”), NOOO, he wanted one of the little bowls with a few crisps in, like Paul had got with his toast, it wasn’t fair if Paul got a little bowl and he didn’t. This really set the coronavirus discussion in perspective; why exactly were we worrying about The End Times coming when the Catastrophic Crisis of Crisps was so Critical, and definitely in evidence in the Here And Now? However Lady Number Two I think correctly perceived that this was not, in essence a Nutrition Problem but a Sibling Rivalry and a little bowl of crisps was required to stop any squabbling. Thus the Crisp Calamity was Cleared up with the arrival of a small bowl of.….. crisps, the benefit of which was amply demonstrated by the undeniable fact that the mortality rate amongst us over coffee was precisely zero.
Jeff had said he would only come as far as the coffee stop for his first long ride in such a long time, so took his leave of us, while the Surviving Six left for a zoom down to South Harting and thence on the direct route to Durleighmarsh, which we reached in good time by 11.20, not bad considering we had taken control of an international pandemic on the way (well somebody needs to).
The Durleighmarsh tea rooms provided their good fare as usual, enhanced by the fact that they were still serving breakfast, which enabled me to steal a march on Sam, as we both had a sausage sandwich, but I had noticed that you could add an egg for a few pence more, a crushing disappointment which Sam was fortunately able to cope with fortified as he was by Crisps from Compton, so much so that he took a photo of us before we left as Michael was unable to frogmarch any passers by to do the job.
There was a small hold up before leaving as Paul had noticed my wheel was making a noise as we arrived, and in fact by post lunch it had sprung out of alignment. Sam realigned it and tightened the nut, leading to, as it turned out, quite unfair mutterings from me about bike shops not tightening nuts (it had been serviced a couple of weeks ago, but taking it back on Monday the thread had stripped from the relevant nut, which explained why the same nut had come loose a couple of months back).
Anyway Sam took us back through Quebec and turned off at Goose Green (it’s a bit of a Geographical Soup round there, we had to take care to avoid Bologna and Timbuktu) and up the zig-zag road to Ditcham. He came up with some flimsy excuse about avoiding the flooded road towards Idsworth to impose another hill on us, up to Chalton, and then another one by going right up Netherley Down instead of the usual direct route to Finchdean, Russell remarking laconically that this is what happens when you get someone with a battery leading rides, though actually the Netherley hill wasn’t that bad oddly.
Paul had been saying he wanted to get the miles in, so perhaps the Innovative Route might have helped a little, but despite also taking the slightly longer route down into Rowlands Castle we had only done 31 miles by that stage. Russell left us there while we had coffee, while Sam proposed going back via Compton to lengthen the ride. I was hesitant at first as I was awash with victuals, but the longer ride did sound a nice idea otherwise so I agreed and was restrained at the cafe having only coffee.
There was a small delay before leaving as Sam and Paul insisted on lying on the ground staring up at my chain shifter thingy in search of the Meaning of Life. This turned out to be CTS 500 which was recorded by Michael acting as High Priest and disseminated among the faithful. Then as a Famous Five we went off via Forestside and West Marden in another Flood Avoidance Manoeuvre. After a very nice caramel thingy in the garden at Compton Sam took us via East Marden and Chilgrove to pick up the Centurion Way at West Dean, now restored in my mind as an Approved Route due to the leaves having vanished.
And so back. Sam reckons 51 miles (82 kilometres) and over 3300 ft of climb, and a thoroughly nice ride in an unexpectedly balmy interlude in our Wet and Windy Winter.