167. Back in the saddle

I rolled around in the sun yesterday, like a dog in the dirt, yelping and barking my joy out.

That’s how it felt anyway. Brother Neil called round at 3.30 and our first bike ride of 2019 kicked off. After 5 seconds I realised there was no helmet on my head. Turned around on the grass outside the house and fell off the bike. A lucky fall, no injury.

Then we headed out, north-east, to a tiny hamlet by the name of Fuller Street.


A testing 6 mile ride, with plenty of hills to introduce those first lung-bursting sensations. Stunning countryside, bathed in spring light. Hawthorn spreading across the quiet lanes. First stop, the Square and Compasses pub.

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Named by a freemason? A proper, old-fashioned boozer, in the middle of nowhere, serving cask beer. Mine from the Nelson brewery in Chatham. We sat outside, chatting about dad, and football, and who knows what. The sunshine warming my blood and making me feel about 500% better than recently.

One pint later, back on the bikes and an easier 4 miles over to Littley Green, via Great Leighs. The beauty of these rides is how little traffic we encounter, on what are usually B roads. The next stop, The Compasses, might be my favourite pub.


Again, it is in the back of beyond, and keeps good beer in a proper cellar. Such a lovely old building and bar. It is a repository of so many cycling memories. Another cracking pint, this time ‘Six Little Ships’ from a Leigh-on-Sea brewery. Essex fare.


It will sound strange, but I don’t think my bruv and I have ever got on so well as yesterday. 60 years getting to know him, and still not finished. We talked without any conversational gaps for three hours.


I don’t enjoy beer like I used to. Sometimes it seems to steal my mood and kidnap my balance. But cycling and sitting in the sunshine with a couple of pints inside you is different quality – one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known. You are not drunk, but there is an opening up that lends the passing countryside a hallucinatory feel. Sometimes I imagine I will die from joy, at the interplay of the shadow and the light, the birds soaring over the fields and the all-engrossing verdancy of it all.

Another three miles back home along more small lanes. We chose the 13-mile route as an ‘easy’ warm up for the much bigger laps available as the evenings lengthen. It is my happy medicine.




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