We had a good turnout for the ride to Coldwaltham on Sunday 10th October, with eight of us meeting at the Cross for a performance of:
COLDWALTHAM. A Tale of Overcoming Adversity in three acts.
Alan in the role of Leader Who is Not Quite Sure Of The Way;
Sam in the role of Person Actually Leading But Moaning About It;
Paul in the role of Hero Who Has Half Crippled Himself Riding To The Ends Of The Earth;
Maureen in the role of Sensible Person Who Brings Lunch Just In Case;
Adam in the role of Person Who Knows What He’s Doing with a Bike;
Harvey in the role of Steadying Influence Among The Vicissitudes of Life;
Roger in the role of Someone Who Doesn’t Want Lunch Anyway, and
Bob (me) in the dual role of Person Who Is Falling To Bits And With a Bike Doing Likewise and Person Who Gets Harassed by Sam into Doing The Ride Report Even Though IT WASN”T MY RIDE, and come to that WASN’T EVEN SAM’S RIDE.
Chris also looked in to say hello on his way to Ring Them Bells (ref. Lisa Minnelli) at the cathedral.
Once our respective roles had been assigned by the Great Cyclist in the Sky we set off eastwards, bound for Walberton Pond, during which Paul and I hung back a little while I heard the rather inspiring tales of his recent LEJOG ride. We didn’t stop at Walberton but hurtled onwards up the A29 to Whiteways, down Bury Hill and turned right through Bury. My bike was creaking in increasingly alarming ways, and as we were going along I remembered that I had had a new gear cable for my hub gears fitted, which might have stretched, and my suspicion was confirmed by Adam, fulfilling his role as we rode to Amberley coming up level with me to say “I think your gears need adjusting” and kindly offering to look at them when we stopped. I was relieved at this, as I had last adjusted them myself about 7 years ago, which information caused Adam to fall about laughing hysterically, thus giving me the suspicion that he was more suited to the role of Person Who Knows What He’s Doing With A Bike than I by a margin of about 100 miles.
And so we arrived at Wiggonholt, first time I think since the Great Plague began, and blundered about looking for the New Way of Doing Things, which involved going to a kiosk desk near the shop rather than the old cafe entrance round the back, not getting any hot food as they hadn’t had a gas delivery, and taking our coffee back again to the tables overlooking the bird sanctuary. As we went to go Adam pulled my bike out to adjust the gears, which he did in spite of me interfering with completely inaccurate information misremembered from 7 years ago, but in the process of which he found the chain was also about to split, one link only holding it, as it were, by a thread. After two goes, much grease and a spare link and associated tool kindly provided by Paul the chain was repaired and the very good soap provided by the RSPB in their loos much appreciated.
The repair made the rattle pretty much better, but it was still there a tiny bit, as my bike, miffed at being left out of the original Casting for the Ride, had adopted its own role of Source of Multiple Problems So That If You Think You’ve Solved Them You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet, Laugh Laugh, but this wasn’t to become evident for a while. But emboldened by the success of the Multiple Repair I briefly took the lead for the Westward Ride to Coldwaltham, passing on the way the Greatham Poetry Box where although we didn’t stop I composed, as Temporary Leader, a short masterpiece as we rode:
Roses are red and violets are blue,
We’ve just passed the Telepoem Box but not stopped to write a proper poem.
Pleased with this Creative Moment, we arrived at Coldwaltham, where Roger left us but the rest survived the horrible junction to reach the pub, salivating at the prospect of the delightful fare awaiting us. And there in the back garden were Adur and Arun, complemented by our own Chris who had Rung Them Bells and made his own way there. Retreating to the front of the pub to tell of this unexpected company however our delight was instantly shattered as my bicycle, eager to heap more trouble on us, had been in secret negotiation with the pub, and so The Man told us that although they were serving lunch they weren’t going to give us any as we hadn’t booked.
So we greeted this in a calm, measured and mature way by pointing at Adur and Arun and saying THEY GOT LUNCH AND THEY DIDN’T BOOK but apparently that was ok as they had arrived early, but we couldn’t have any.
Maureen then said she’d brought some sandwiches Just In Case, failed totally in her effort to Not Look Smug, and went to join Adur and Arun.
At this point my stomach intervened in the situation in a calm, measured, mature way by screaming I WANT LUNCH, I WANT LUNCH in my ear, so that further conversation became impossible. So I said I was going into Pulborough to buy some sandwiches for the Hungry Element, in a frantic effort to calm my stomach which was in no mood to be calmed.
But then Alan, who was feeling unnecessarily bad because he didn’t know we needed to book (neither did anyone else), and had been conducting High Level Negotiations, emerged excitedly to announce that it was All Alright, as Adur and Arun had told the pub we were coming, so effectively we were booked. You can imagine the relief.
Then The Man appeared with a long complicated speech I couldn’t quite hear saying they had to prioritise and plan something, and only had capacity for something, and something or other else. So I went on the sound of him and said “So we’re not getting lunch?’ and he said “Errr…. no”
At this point the calm, measured, mature messages from my stomach adjusted slightly to the new situation as it started to scream “I WANT LUNCH AND I’M GOING TO KILL SOMEONE”.
So to forestall this Undesirable Eventuality I repeated my intention of getting a supply of sandwiches from Pulborough, and Alan said he’d come with me.
So off we set. And 30 seconds later The Man appeared and said we could have up to two lunches after all. The Hungry Element said they tried to ring us but couldn’t get a signal. Hmmm.
Harvey had supplied helpful directions to Tesco, but his information had been drowned out by my stomach shouting KILL! KILL! KILL! in my ear, so we went to the corner shop I knew on the High street and randomly gathered up sandwiches and snacks. My bicycle actually became helpful at that point as I used my slightly disgustingly named Nelson Longflap saddle bag to fit it all in, and back we went to find Sam snoring contentedly beside the remains of his full roast lunch. I sat stuffing foodstuffs into my stomach which slowly became less lethal, enabling me to begin noticing my surroundings again and surveyed the scene of the atrocity. Several of the group were still alive it seemed, as we gobbled up most of the somewhat mediocre snacks, but Adur and Arun were by then about to leave and the Hungry Element had barely said hello.
So the lunchtime break came to a ragged end, we said goodbye (in lieu of having said hello) to Adur and Arun, and set off up Waltham Park Road intending to stop at Bignor Villa for tea. By then my bike had regained its awful creaking sound, which I think was partly because I had adjusted it while going along, but in the opposite direction to the one suggested by Adam (I never could tell my left from my right), so worsening the gear problem. But frustrated at being forced to stay together it passed responsibility for achieving Total Collapse to my back, which I injured a while ago but which had been pretty ok while riding up to then, only hurting when we stopped. So now it started hurting while riding, and the combination of feeling more and more crippled while trying not to Strain my Chain hit me rather badly. We did stop outside the Bignor entrance, but then inexplicably carried on, which led my stomach onto minor versions of IF I DON’T GET TEA I’M GOING TO DIE but they were somewhat subdued by having had a lunch that was decent in quantity if not quality and by me having to concentrate on keeping up. It turned out however that a decision had been reached to stop at Graffham rather than Bignor, which would allow us to go up Cocking Hill rather than Duncton, which was indeed a lot less strain on my back and my bike.
So we sped down the last bit of Duncton, completely empty due to the road closure and went to Graffham shop, where everyone got take away coffees or teas but I was afforded Special Status for some reason and served mine in a china cup, showing what an important person I am. Chris, who had accidentally been riding in the vicinity for that brief section left us again to Ring More Bells (at Walberton), so the remaining Magnificent Seven, having overcome Backs, Chains and Zero Sum Lunches, heroically Defeating Adversity, together rode (magnificently) back via Cocking, only fragmenting at Lavant.
So many many thanks to all, especially Adam, Sam and Paul for keeping my distinctly ailing bike on the road for a lot longer than my bike had planned, and thereby allowing for a lovely 56 mile ride snatched from the jaws of something or other. As Lisa Minnelli wonderfully put it:
“Ring them bells, come on, come on, ring them bells
Make ’em sing, you’d better ring the bells
It’s such a happy thing to hear ’em ting a ling
You gotta swing them, ring them bells”