Jim writes: "Life is like riding a bicycle", thought Albert Einstein, "in order to keep your balance you must keep riding". I beg to differ. On a cold, windy morning, with the rain pouring down, most well balanced people were luxuriating in bed, enjoying the over-indulgence of Christmas week, and dreaming of the long hot summer days when it would once again be sane to venture out on an all-day ride. Not so the extremist faction of the Cambridge CTC which I found huddled in Greta's kitchen when I arrived for the Thursday ride, already soaked to the skin and thinking 'what moment of madness persuaded me to get on my bike this morning?'.
The majority of the Club had obviously had the sense to stay at home, and there were only five of us who set off, with Mike C leading, towards our coffee stop at Phillimore Garden Centre in Melbourn. He took us via Newton and Harston to Haslingfield, over Barrington Hill (was it Churchill who said "If you're going through hell, keep going"?), on to Orwell, and then through Meldreth, to Melbourn where the one thing that had kept me going – the thought of a steaming coffee and a warm mince pie, perhaps even a toasted tea cake, followed by a sensible decision to take the shortest route home – was dashed. First, came the sign at Phillimore Gardens saying CAFE CLOSED, which proved to be less of a disaster than I first feared, as another garden centre with a cafe was open just down the road. Even better, it had an excellent overhead heater, below which we spread ourselves out, and I felt for a moment, through delusion or delirium, almost like a sunbather on the Med. I was alerted to the less happy reality when I heard a consensus among my fellow riders in favour, not of calling for a taxi home (which I would have favoured), but of cycling on to The Temeraire in Saffron Walden for lunch. I must at this stage have been partly successful in my efforts to transcend the whole experience, as I forget the exact route we took, though I think we went through Fowlmere, across the A505, and over the hill towards Littlebury, turning right up to Catmere End. In any normal circumstances, I love this little pocket of open countryside, and when I mentioned that to Mike, he agreed that he also thought it was very nice ... during the summer. From Catmere, we pottered down to Audley End and on into Saffron Walden, where – what a nice surprise -- Peter W was waiting, having cycled from West Wratting on his own, for which I thought he deserved a larger prize than a Wetherspoons pub lunch.
Finally, as we left for home, we were rewarded for our earlier stoicism by the sight of the cloud disappearing, the rain receding, and the sun beaming down on us, as we wended our way home through Littlebury, Little Chesterford, Ickleton, Hinxton (where a car still lay in the flooded river), Duxford, Whittlesford and the Shelfords. At my garden gate, my computer read 54 miles, but in my opinion the ride was worth a lot more.
Jim Bamberg (standing in for Eddie, our regular Thursday blogger).