The Velosolo Club conducted a joint operation with the Bridges & Beers
The train ride up from the VCHQ in East Sussex was uneventful. Accompanied by the Club vice president, we alighted from Waterloo station and into the middle of a selfie safari.
note the pint-sized Darth Vader, who clearly wasn't thinking safety
Having only one bike between us, we were forced to take another train to Hampton Court, which those who watched Wolf Hall
will recall was seized by Henry after Wolsey proved too slyly likeable.
Hampton Court station came with its own jester, shown here interrogating a jackdaw.
After meeting some of the B&B cast, the Club treasurer fled to Oxford Street to navigate the treacherous women's floor at John Lewis and buy a skirt.
The ride promised and delivered bridges. Being largely unfamiliar with the far southwestern reaches of London (who knew the Thames went past Westminster Bridge?), I was grateful to have a guide who knew the lay of the land, which we occasionally doubled back on as an aid to imprinting it in our collective memory.
By the time we arrived at our first pub in Wandsworth, after traversing more riverside than has evidently been mapped, sometimes on paths not quite fit for an entourage but thankfully cleared of velociraptors if not humble pilgrims without bikes, I was hungry if not thirsty. Sitting next to Richard Gere, who had also come along on the ride, I watched with quiet horror his unfinished chips being taken from the table before I had time to cadge some, having only budgeted for a thrifty Subway sandwich procured the day before.
A bit further along we observed a helicopter whirling itself into the sky. Probably someone with a Brompton showing off.
Speaking of which, quite often when we hit smooth tarmac I adopted Club practice of Look mum no hands. This is difficult to pull off in a group ride without looking like a d**k. Let the record show this is my version of a Snoopy dance,
and is in no way meant to demoralise those who don't enjoy good caster steering. It also soothes my occasionally troublesome back.
random earthworks turtle pic
Not long after hitting London proper (no offence to those who live in the sticks) our critical mass landed at the second and final pub. As I am lock averse – an unwritten Club rule is you should never lock a bike you aren't prepared to lose – this presented a dilemma: enter in a spirit of camaraderie, or sit outside and watch the bikes, only missing a leash to complete the picture?
I chose to share the ride organiser's hefty lock (with thanks to others for volunteering) and join the gruppo, which was eventually forced inside thanks to the practicing campanologists
of Southwark Cathedral. (Or a recording, I'm no campy expert. Shame I couldn't find the actual Monty Python clip.) That I fled shortly afterwards owes nothing to the company, and everything to my pubphobia, which usually only manifests itself when inside an establishment. This is a combination of mild claustrophobia and a dislike of pub accoustics, which inevitably have me wanting to turn up my nonexistant hearing aid.
Back in deepest middle eastest Sussex the Club physician met me at the station with the car in case I wanted a lift, took one look at my still full bidon, and shook her head at my dreadful hydration routine. Alcohol is even more dehydrating, I wanted to tell her. Then I raced her home, given a head start as she got caught at the level crossing. I don't run on water: I run on good mojo.