Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mr Grumpy

John arrived very early. It was clear that all was not well as he descended on Hambledon for this week's ride. Once through the door he marched, long-faced into the kitchen without even a 'hiya' for Jimmy who was sitting up waiting for bath time. Trudy was first to suffer his wrath as Al stuck the kettle on - John launched into an incomprehensible diatribe "Tiles... plasterboard... cost a fortune... do you know how much they want for the en suite...? Hole in the ground... bloody council!". Even a cup of tea made perfectly, according to John's very particular specifications, did not seem to placate him. Al was next in the firing line as he sterilised bottles, prepared formula and ran Jimmy's bath. "Really..? Oh dear!... Never..! You don't say..! Bloody Council!" were all he could say as he managed to punctuate John's ranting.

John brooded in the living room nursing his cup of tea as Al and Tee bathed Jimmy, exchanged curious glances and shrugged their shoulders. Soon enough Jon arrived - his mild manners would surely settle John's consternation. Al just caught part of the conversation as he put Jimmy's pyjamas on... "Tiles... plasterboard... cost a fortune... do you know how much they want for the en suite...? Hole in the ground... bloody council!". If anything his ranting had become more vociferous, being as it is that Jon happens to work for the council, since he now had a focal point and someone who was listening.

Eventually talk turned to the evening's ride... "Let's not go up that bloody bridle path. Last week was really muddy and it's sure to be really rutted. I can't stand that bit of the ride..." John mumbled. Perhaps to diffuse the situation Jon suggested we forgo our customary tea and biscuits; apparently he was virtually ready to go. If he had meant to be helpful he had failed. John and Al were fully prepared and ready in a matter of minutes. They waited in the cold night air as Jon reconstructed his bike, attached the various essentials and put on his ride wear. John shuffled from foot to foot, fiddled with his gear levers, adjusted his lights and muttered under his breath as he waited... and waited patiently. Finally Jon was ready and the trio were off to tackle Hambledon #1 Route.

Although cold it was a perfect evening for a ride - a still night with a near full moon lighting the way. Talk soon turned to the Boys Weekend planned in April which John had recently got the OK to attend; this has quickly become one of the highlights of the TCA calender and John was already chomping at the bit to take part in his first one. The prolonged dry weather had made the trails unusually hard-packed for this time of year. Both Al and John, who led the way down the first descent, got a bit of a surprise as they hit a sticky patch of mud at full speed which catapulted them into the side of the natural alleyway. Jon was a little more cautious and pulled up short of the mud and picked his way through it deliberately.

The short ride to the While Lion was relatively uneventful and the three were soon enjoying their beers in the the busy public bar. John was keen to resurrect discussion of the Boys Weekend. "But where are we sleeping..? How are we getting from the airport..? What do I need to take..? You haven't copied me on that..! How do you expect me to read all the e-mails..?".

Jon tried to keep John relaxed at the White Lion

"Tiles... plasterboard... cost a fortune... do you know how much they want for the en suite...? Hole in the ground... bloody council!": It was time to leave. With pints finished we headed for the disused railway line. Thankfully John's mood seemed to lighten as we took a relatively leisurely spin down the track. Not for long though - the Railway Embankment Challenge was beckoning! John barely paused for breath and attacked the incline with real aggresion. "These BLOODY tyres!" were all that Al and Jon could hear from underneath the bridge; the assumption was that John had failed in his first attempt and it was clear he wasn't coming back for a second. Also using 'Panaracer Fire XC' tyres Al reached the top on his first attempt with little fuss and waited for Jon to have his turn. Sadly Jon could only reach the first bend before he moaned "I'm never going to make it tonight, I'm just not feeling right". Maybe this grouchiness was catching?

Crossing the A32 and using familiar tracks the riders made their way through the Forest of Bere, Jon leading the way. John was some way ahead when Al and Jon realised he was going in the wrong direction. The best they could do was to stay on the correct track and hope that John would realise and see the other's lights through the woods. Puffing and panting John soon realised the error of his ways and caught up - "Did you two go a different way to usual?" - but would not accept that it was he who had been at fault.

Surely another quiet beer would settle John down; what could possibly go wrong? As we entered through the usual side door of the Traveler's we were greeted by an unworldly din - the worst cover version of the Pogues 'Fairytale of New York' that one could possibly imagine. We moved quickly into the lounge bar, ordered our beers and sat as far away from the public bar as possible. Unfortunately a blocked chimney meant that we had to endure another form of pollution in the furthest bar so we decided to sit somewhere mid-point between death by carbon monoxide and death by terrible folk music.

video
If Carlsberg made folk bands... they would sound nothing like this

John grimaced his way through his beer, arguing stridently that the beer we were drinking (Charles Wells Bombardier) was 'bom-bar-de-air' as opposed to Al's assertion that is was 'bom-ba-deer'. [Subsequently Al was proved right by this link: bom'ber-dir which includes an audio clip! Ed.].

John begins to cheer up

Thankfully the short ride home was uneventful and John found nothing much to moan about. John also had the good grace not to complain about the curry or the Vienetta that was served back at the ranch. Finally it was time for Jon and John to load their bikes back into their vehicles and make their way home. "Mud... Sleeping arrangements... Directions... Folk music... blocked chimneys... bom-bar-de-air... Bloody tyres...!" John muttered as he turned the key in the ignition.

Route Map (Click to enlarge):
(Posted by: Al)

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2 Comments:

At 8:08 am, February 24, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

I totally sympathise! The price of plasterboard has rocketed and we all know what Councils are like.

>Let's not go up that bloody bridal path

Is that reserved for Strudles on the "the big day"?

 
At 5:01 am, February 25, 2008, Blogger simon said...

me too... I get grumpy like that.. but a beer, a ride does sooth a savage beast..

councils are bastards the world over me thinks

 

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