At the end of a cycling blog post, I normally thank the organiser of the event. I'm not going to do that this time. No, this time, I can't help but make it the very first paragraph. Because, what Simon has done is absolutely extraordinary. He could have thrown in the towel, you see. He could have said: "Fine, end of an era. This FNRttC malarkey was fun while it lasted, but it's grown into something that needs a framework that sounds like a club with insurance, membership and whatnots." He didn't do that. He investigated how he can minimise bureaucracy while still maintaining the magic of FNRttC. All winter he plotted how to make it work. And with the first of the season's ride to Southend, pulled off something I'm so happy to have been part of. If FNRttC was art, I would call it a 'movement'. FNRttC and the Fridays are special. Simon himself, wouldn't like to dwell on this, so suffices to say: Simon, thank you!
The Southend FNRttC used to be my least favourite. With audaxing and other commitments, it wasn't a 'must keep date free' event anymore. Except, my friend, the lovely Mandy, the Cycling Gardener, was keen to experience a FNRttC. Doubtful of her stamina, we worked out a plan to get her 'up to speed' and do the short and flat, Southend ride. Only, in January, she came off her bike on the ice and broke her leg. While her leg was healing pretty quickly, I knew not to bring up the subject and crossed FNRttC Southend off my year plan. So, what do I do at the 11th hour? I tell Simon that I can not bear not to do this ride and ask to be put on the list.
Talking of broken bones. Andy, I thought, was just practising how to bind a gun to his 'bent', aspiring to emulate the picture I once took in a cycling museum.
Clearly, I must spend more time on Cyclechat, so that I am in the know when a buddy has had a non-favourable road-traffic exchange. Of course, this is Andy, he does LEL on a 'mended' back, why would he not do a FNRttC on one leg?
So, to spice up the 'ordinary' Southend ride, I go into town the Waterloo, as opposed to the Paddington, way. I bump into ChrisB. He is an acquaintance from when I was doing 100km Audaxes.
We make our way to Hyde Park Corner together. I took note of St Stephen's Restaurant/Tavern. I'd quite like to stop there for a drink next time (Beer In The Evening).
I was at the back of the large and lively gathering at Hyde Park Corner, so didn't hear Simon's health and safety talk very well. It must have been entertaining as always, because there was quite a bit of laughter. Soon we were off and soon we stopped again ... at the Minories. Everytime, I learn something new about London: The Minories on Wiki
It was here that the chill started to take. There were waves of cold, very cold and painfully cold. At the 24 hour Tesco stop, people bought extra layers, which I thought was brilliantly resourceful. Later on, I saw a rider with socks as gloves.
We rode on to the magnificent Stock Stop at the village hall. Rolls, yummy cake, tea, cheerful people ... just the ticket. Thanks to Geoff, Ann, Freddie, Grace Maisie and Alfie Tully. Hope their fundraising goes well.
And then came the 'Whitstable-esque' bit. As we left the Stock Stop, dawn was ready for the early bird. How wonderful it was. I set out to do the 'ordinary' Southend, and went to work today, Monday, unable to explain to my colleagues why last Friday was extra-ordinary.
Anyway, we had a great time at the Rose Restaurant, Titus, Stu and I. Making fun of Marc who had sped along to get breakfast in before anyone else. These newcomers, he? But what about the guy who got changed into jeans? You can do the ride in jeans, but you can't get changed into jeans at the end. And as for the guys who got picked up by vehicle. Please have the decency to do this around the corner, out of view. Its just not cool. Not cool for us, and not cool for you. The exception would be if you offered a shuttle service to the train station in a 1960's Citroen van.
The crowd got lively again, with poppers going off to celebrate Claud's birthday. We loved the generous piece of cake.
Before I went off to do my little bit of sightseeing, Aperitif gave me a parcel. 'Nothing much', he said, 'just a little something'. The wrapping was already doing it for me: home made wrapping paper with Kipling's Bee-Boy's song printed over a honeybee covered frame.
Inside was: 'The Countryman' Vol XXXIV No 1 1946. A quick scan of the index revealed the reason for the most attentive gift: "How to Get More Honey". Written by C.G. Butler Ph.D. That must be Butler as in 'the Butler's cage', a very useful little object to keep queens in. How absolutely wonderful, thanks Aperitif! Its a little treasure to me.
With high spirits I went off as planned, to Two Tree Island.
View of Two Tree Island from Leigh on Sea
Some notes on Two Tree Island:
- Dark-bellied Brent geese on the shore, from Siberia for the winter
- Enjoyed watching the bike park riders doing their tricks
- Can see Hadley Castle from the island. Hadley Farm will be venue for mountain biking during 2012 Olympics.
To close off the 'day', I tried cockles from one of the famous cockle sheds, sitting outside in the sun ... bliss.
So again, thank you Simon, tecs, tea crew and all the riders who made this another memorable FNRttC. Well done to all riders for whom it might have been their longest distance ever, their coldest ride ever, or their first night ride, or all three.
Photos are on the slideshow till the next ride or here: Clicky
Photo by Yacf's Zipperhead