Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Trifling Matter

Tonight we were on a mission: Al had arranged to meet Ian at Buriton to finalise arrangements for the 2009 Boy's Weekend reservation. Sadly Ian was hamstrung by a lighting deficiency and commitments at work and had got his excuses in early - he would take the car and meet us at the Five Bells in Buriton. Meanwhile we would head for the Five Bells from Hambledon using a route we've used a couple of times before via the QE Park and back up the Meon valley stopping off in East Meon.

Knowing that this was a rather longer ride than usual Jon arrived early in order that he might enjoy a customary cup of tea before the 'off'. This evening was also a little out-of-the-ordinary in that Billy-Bob was making his full-time return to the fold; he arrived home from his Antipodean sabbatical the weekend before. Keen to get back in the saddle, but anxious that his two-year pastry binge may have dented his form, Billy-Bob would borrow Al's spare bike for the evening.

Blotting his copy book the first night back, Billy-Bob's late arrival, and subsequent insistence that he still be included in the round of tea and biscuits, meant we left a little behind schedule at around 6.30pm. It was clear our old friend, resplendent in a pair of tracksuit bottoms he had procured for £3.50 from Asda, was suffering some sort of climate shock; complaining as he was about the temperature on a relatively mild, still night. In addition it was apparent that I had perhaps not emphasised strongly enough how much pressure of time we were under as Jon and Billy-Bob conducted their own impromptu Women's Institute meeting on the ride out of the village.

The climb out of Hambledon up to the Bat & Ball pub was largely uneventful although it was clear that Billy-Bob's fears would be realised - those kiwi pies were taking their toll - as he inquired rather desperately whether we would be stopping for a pint. Even if we had had the time a beer stop after only 3 miles would have been totally unprecedented - Jon and Al insisted we press on. The long climb up to Hyden Hill continued to punish Billy-Bob as he struggled with the ill-maintained gears on Al's spare bike; at one stage he even had to dismount and manually engage the lower gear on the front mech. Eventually we had broken the back of the climb and we could ease back for the ridge-ride to Butser Hill along a bridle path.

This easing back was cue for Jon and Billy-Bob to resume their nattering. At one point Al, who was now becoming perhaps a bit overbearing, was at pains to point out that we had 12 minutes to complete a descent of Butser Hill, ride through QE Park and tackle the steep climb and subsequent descent into Buriton. Eventually we reached Butser hill and were separated for a brief time as we hurtled down the hill. Al reached the bottom first and held the gate open for Jon and then Billy-Bob (carrying the imposition of a rigid bike) who arrived in quick succession. In a bizarre incident of disorientation Jon managed to get lost in the car park to the west of the main visitor's entrance - he reported later that he only realised something had gone awry when he was faced with two lanes of traffic coming towards him at high speed along the A3. It only took a matter of minutes for the trio to get reunited and Jon was sent as an advance party over the hill to Buriton.

Billy-Bob and Al caught up with Jon just in time to see a barn owl fly from a post just a few meters away from him. Jon had stopped to enjoy this spectacular encounter but was pressed into action once the owl had flown off. Al and Billy-Bob made their way more slowly up the hill and enjoyed the descent into the village; by the time they got to the pub Jon had located Ian, disrobed and was ready to get the beers in.

Suited and booted Ian had managed to secure the comfiest chairs in the pub (left) and the four sat down to enjoy their beer and discuss the administrative business in hand. However, it was not long before conversation inevitably turned to 'planning' (Jon, Ian and Billy-Bob are all planners by profession) and Al was keen to escape. We downed our beers, packed away papers, donned our gear and headed out into the night once more. Jon and Al reassured Billy-Bob that the back of the ride was broken and all that remained was a dawdle up the Meon Valley road.

Al looked nervously at his watch and already knew deep down that is was going to be a late one. Our relaxed, sociable riding pace and protracted discussions in the Five Bells had set us back. He tried to coax some urgency out of the other two as best he could but eventually decided it was a lost cause - he certainly wasn't about to forfeit another pub stop for an early night!

Jon and Al pulled up sharply in front of the Izaak Walton, the first pub encountered as one approaches East Meon from the east, as this was the first time either of them had seen this free house open. More typically the lights are off and the curtains drawn. Even with the lights on it did not look the most inviting pub, and competition in the village is strong with the outstanding Olde George round the corner. Billy-Bob had the casting vote and propped his bike purposely up against the wall. Al was first to the bar and ordered three pints of Ringwood's superb Seventy Eight, a spring beer "...brewed to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the founding of Ringwood Brewery in March 1978". We also treated ourselves to a packet of pork scratchings, since it was a special occasion. The Izaak' is a proper traditional boozer, it took a while to get used to but it has that 'industrial' feel valued by all at the TCA.

Jon and Billy-Bob enjoy a 78 an' scratchings

Pints downed it was back in the saddle for the 'up-and-over' to Hambledon. Al estimated that it would be an hour back to base; an hour until dinnertime. This concept finally seemed to galvanize the other two into action and the pace picked up a bit. The final accent back onto the South Downs almost finished a decidedly out-of-shape Billy-Bob but soon the three riders were gliding downhill into the village.

Bikes safely stowed it was 10pm but the time we got in. Beef stew was dish-of-the-day but the pièce de résistance was the trifle (below) that Al had concocted (complete with hundreds-and-thousands!) to mark the auspicious occasion of Billy-Bob's return.

Welcome Home!

Route Map (cick to enlarge):
Elevation Profile:
(Posted by: Al)

Labels: , , , , , ,


At 5:13 am, March 03, 2008, Blogger simon said...

trifle! its A favorite of mine!!!
great post as always and good riding.

Its been really wet here and typical for an Aussie- I have not coped with the change in track conditions, or the fact that it makes my bike dirty.... I much prefer to ride in 45c temperatures on a dry track that does not root the chain, sprockets etc!!!

At 6:27 pm, March 04, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

Welcome back Billybob! I look forward to hearing more about your acclimatisation back here!

At 8:32 pm, March 04, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

"My sprocket's rooted, so am I,
Advance Australia Fair!

At 11:12 am, March 05, 2008, Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

Great blog, nice to see Billy-Bob back in the saddle.

At 5:59 pm, March 06, 2008, Blogger Maalie said...

Were there any spongy bits in that trifle?

At 9:37 am, March 10, 2008, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

A couple of photo's of Ju's hen's night here.

Will read your post soon.


Post a Comment

<< Home