Monday, 5 November 2012

Weekends Away… a Cyclist's Tale

In the days when only a few cyclists had the use of motorised transport, in order to ride at least one event a week meant that when any event was more than 30 or more miles away from home we incurred a weekend away.

The way to get “digs” was to refer to either the NCU or CTC handbooks, which listed cheap bed and breakfast establishments. The accommodation (like those used by the entertainment fraternity) ranged from very good to bloody awful, and some just made a long lasting impression.

On one well remembered weekend two Eltham Paragon team mates and myself had ridden a Saturday afternoon track meeting at Herne Hill with the intention of going on to Farnham in Surrey to ride a Sunday morning 25 mile time trial. Our belief was that the speed from the track would still be in our legs for the following time trial.

During the afternoon a friend who belonged to the Sydenham Wheelers decided on the spot that he would come with us. He said that he would have to go home first to pick up a few things but would be back by the time that the track meeting finished.

When he returned we asked what were the things he had gone home for as he had no saddlebag or other visible luggage. He pointed to his cape roll, which was attached to the rear of his saddle, and we saw that he had stuck his toothbrush under the strap so it was obvious that he intended to travel light.

For reasons not now remembered we had not bothered to book any digs thinking that we would find somewhere to stay using our trusted NCU Handbook. Well we quickly exhausted the listed B & B’s, all were full, with not a spare bed between them. However being hungry from out track efforts we thought we would have a meal and look for digs later.

After eating we went along to the local Salvation Hostel but even there we had no luck. The Sally Army man was however very helpful and suggested that the Police station might be able to come up with something. The station sergeant came up trumps and gave us an address which turned out to be a tiny terraced cottage, and the lady said as her son was away for the weekend she had two rooms available.

By now it was getting late so we quickly prepared our bikes for the next days event and then went to the Local pub for a quick pint before turning in. We had about three or four pints and then returned to the digs which were now in complete darkness. There was no one about but we knew which two rooms had be allocated to us so we decided to get off to bed in view of our early morning start

The room that I shared with our Sydenham friend had just one double bed. I was about to drop off to sleep when my companion for the night nudged me and asked if I had seen where the toilet was when we had first arrived. As we had come to the room in total darkness I told him I had no idea. He then climbed out of bed and fished around on the floor emerging in triumph with a large china pot, which he immediately started to use. Once started because of the beer we had consumed we could not stop. To cut a long story short very soon the pot was filled to the brim and we were still in need of its use.

There was only one thing to do we opened the window and emptied the pots contents onto the front garden hoping that no one had seen us and returned to bed stifling our laughter.

Next morning we told my two team mates of our traumatic night and they said that we had been lucky. The room that they occupied belonged to the absent son, and that when they had opened a cupboard in the corner they had been frightened out of their lives when confronted by a full sized skeleton so they had spent the night awake waiting to be attacked by the living dead.

We did in fact find out later that the son was a medical student and as nothing was said about the state of the front garden we assumed that no on had witnessed our late night effort to water the lawn.

The details of the weekend are easily recalled but there is no memory of the actual racing so at this distance I can only imagine that our results were best forgotten.