Just two of us formed the select party for a ride to the Forester’s Arms at Kirdford last Sunday, Maureen and myself (Bob) leading. Actually we were joined briefly by Chris, who was going Bell Chiming (a Pandemic version of bell ringing) at Walberton, so rode with us briefly at the start. There was a pretty stiff wind, that seemed to be of that type which is against you whichever way you go. I was also struggling a bit with a damaged bike, having fallen over with it near Madehurst during the thunderstorm the previous Friday, which had left something rubbing against a wheel, but I couldn’t find what.
Nevertheless we ventured down the Oving Road the usual way to Walberton, where we stopped while I made a more sustained attempt at bicycle repair, involving haphazard waggling things about in the hope of getting the bike back to normal. We were instantly joined by a crowd of ladies jogging, who were Maureen’s running companions, so my increasingly desperate and aimless bike mending activities provided a space for them to catch up with each other.
We left to go up to Madehurst, and although I had no idea which of my random pushes and pulls had done it, the wheel was no longer catching, which made me feel like Bike Mechanic of the Year, so I fully intend to patronise the next person with mechanical trouble on a ride by looking Wise, Knowledgeable and Slightly Judgemental and commenting “Hmmmm, looks to me like you haven’t been Waggling Things About enough!” while nodding sagely. Probably while smoking a pipe.
It was nice going up Madehurst Hill without either a rubbing wheel or a thunderstorm going on, but we stopped at the top for a drink and were instantly engulfed by another group of ladies jogging, who all knew Maureen from running together, and gathered round her for a chat. By this time several things had become clear, namely:
Maureen knows everyone in Sussex.
She goes running with most of them.
The Friends of Maureen go about in packs and were loitering in strategic places to spring out at us when we stopped.
The purpose of this I couldn’t tell, but You Can Never Be Too Careful. They claimed to be lost (a likely story), so I went along with this pretence and supplied directions from the map on my phone to Slindon via footpaths, and when they were distracted led us in a getaway. I hardly stopped at Whiteways for fear of being surrounded again, instead shooting down Houghton Hill to reach the Bridge Inn cafe safely, where I indulged in a Breakfast Bap to celebrate my cleverness and Maureen chatted about Covid arrangements in supermarkets to the young man who served us, the conversation reaching such vigour that I began to wonder if he had been recruited to the august circle of the Friends of Maureen, and was thus destined to hide behind the palm trees before leaping out at unsuspecting customers.
Despite this alarming possibility we left the cafe unmolested, and we continued towards Wiggonholt, with only one unnerving moment when Maureen cheerily greeted a lady runner near Greatham, although though I didn’t actually see the rest of the group who were undoubtedly hiding behind a hedge waiting to pounce. We thus turned off to West Chiltington, and then left up through Adversane. The combination of Advanced Bicycle Engineering and breakfast bap had meant we were slightly delayed, so to make sure we got to the pub at the time I’d booked a table I continued on the main road to Wisborough Green instead of the less trafficy route via the Bat and Ball, and then down the Kirdford Road to the Forester’s Arms.
There we had a pretty decent lunch, in the garden rather than the table I had booked. I can recommend their soup, and the chips ordered by Maureen but largely eaten by me. They were well organised á la Covid and quite busy. When we went to go, just as we were gathering ourselves to ride off, Chris arrived again; his Bell Chiming complete he had called in before going to lunch in the hope of catching us to say hello, and indeed had so caught us.
Walberton’s bells had been rung again, albeit it a more mechanical than proper manner. And the slight delay chatting to Chris was EXTREMELY fortuitous, as it SAVED THE DAY for me. Maureen had mentioned when we got to the Bridge cafe at Houghton that she had made further advances on her Lingerie Carriage System detailed in the 12th March blog, and identified a pocket for her credit card. I was relieved therefore that I hadn’t actually got round to adopting her Mark 1 System by wearing a bra for Transportation of Portable Equipment, as I already used the Pocket System, so thought I’d stolen a march on her there. But it turned out I might have been better off with a bra, as I’d dropped my wallet somewhere, and only the delay talking to Chris allowed time for the bar lady, plus the kind chap who had found it, to emerge from the pub waving said wallet. I had stuffed it in a ordinary, rather than zip, pocket after paying and it had obviously dropped out. I thanked the kind fellow effusively, though in a Socially Distant manner of course.
So leaving Chris, but not leaving my wallet, we returned the usual way down to Duncton, where Maureen switched her battery to Zoom and I caught her up eventually, then we parted company at the turning off to East Dean which I took but where Maureen carried on. I came back over the hill from Charlton to the racecourse, and through Lavant, which my spellchecker has just changed to Levantine thus adding to the mysterious glamour already earned by the VR postbox in that unfathomably strange settlement.
56 miles on my clock for a lovely ride, thank you Maureen (with walk-on parts played by The Friends of Maureen).