A new Monday, a new week and a new direction. Off we pedalled out of Cambridge and in the general direction of London, to see how far we would get today. The ride out of Cambridge was a nice one, along the river, through the back streets and we mingled with the multitude of cyclists and two-wheeled commuters.
We passed a convention of the Cambridge branch of the Stylish and Suave Swan Society and they chose to convene right beside the bank of the river. They were a large group, so they were obviously having a get together to discuss individual approaches to achieving swannish style and suaveness, because they all appeared to have achieved that state of appearance.
“Oh Barbara, how do you maintain that elegant head carriage? You look divine. I find I start sagging and before too long, my beak is at the level of those riff raff ducks. It’s orfully embarrassing.”
“Yoga darling. I swear by it and Jonathon is a master. The poses he gets us to do are torture darling, tawture! But it’s worth it, when I can look this good!”
“Anthony, how good to see you my old chum. It’s Gerald, Gerald Swanford-Ponsonby. We met at Phillip and Audrey’s canal party last month.”
“Oh Anthony, of course, how are you my dear fellow.”
“Well, I was feeling fine and topping until a few minutes ago, then I saw you and that shine in your feathers and now I feel jealous and positively dowdy. How do you do it?”
“Product dear man, it’s all in the product. I swear by Paddler’s Pomade for Polished and Pulchritudinous Plumage. It’s magic I tell you, pure miracle in a bottle. I’ll put some your way if you like, old man.”
Our pedalling took us onto the National Cycle Network Route #11 and it in turn, it took us along a nice flat path, along the river and through some fields. We paused for elevenses in a nice spot on a bench by the river, had a snack and chatted about our experiences in Cambridge.
We rode past a charming old church and I stopped to read some of the headstones beside it. There were three that were quite prominent, all bearing the same family name, with one person dying in January 1919, another in September 1919 and another in October 1919. I said to Steve I wondered if they were victims of the 1919 flu pandemic that swept the world after WWI. It was sad to see three of the same family dying so close together and the year made me wonder about the flu.
After leaving the surrounds of Cambridge, our nice flat path disappeared! Disappeared I tell you! We’ve had days of flat cycling and it all came to an end today. Darn! As we headed into the countryside, the hills found us once again. The legs had to get back into a hill climbing frame of mind and power up those inclines. The hills did bring with them some nice views though and we rode through some delightful little villages too. We stopped for lunch in a small park in front of a row of cottages and sat under a tree for a bite to eat. We were joined by swarms of little flying bugs, which of course seemed to prefer me to Steve, as all flying insects seem to! We’ve had these little critters with us for the last week and I don’t know what they are, but they arrive in droves and land on me until I am speckled black. They don’t bite, they just tickle as they land, and get a bit annoying when they fly into my face, but they seem to be everywhere. We don’t know what they are, but they joined us again for lunch today.
The country roads also give us fords occasionally and we had another one today, which Steve enjoyed splashing through.
The hills found us again today and, unfortunately, so did the wind. It got stronger and stronger as we went, which made the going tougher and the enjoyment factor drop just a notch or two. It’s dastardly that wind, just a real party pooper however you look at it. The delights were still there though, such as the pretty and quaint little thatched cottages we saw as we rode through villages and I saw the perfect place for the village cricket match I want to see one day. We rode past a cricket wicket that was in the middle of the village green near Clavering, with trees around the edge and thatched cottages all around. Picture perfect! I want that, with a picnic and a sunny day and a village cricket game. Perfect! I just need us to ride through a village like that when a game’s in play.
On we ploughed, up the hills, into the wind and arrived in Bishop’s Stortford after 52km, where we decided to stop for the day. I went into a nearby Waitrose supermarket to get Steve a post-ride snack, while he waited outside and looked up campsites, since we knew there were some in the area. I found Steve a muffin and a drink and met a lovely check-out operator as I paid for them.
“I’ll just have to look this up. It’s a chocolate muffin isn’t it?”
“A triple chocolate one?”
“Yes, I think so.
“Ooooohhhh,” she replied again, virtually licking her lips.
“My husband’s outside waiting eagerly for it!”
“Well, we all need a treat sometimes don’t we.”
She handed me my change and I was cramming it into my wallet, so I could get out of the way and let the next person through and was about to walk off, still cramming and with a £10 note poking out, when the nice checkout lady said, “Put that away. It’s alright, I’ll wait. I can’t have you leaving until that’s put away.” So I finished organising my change into my wallet and gave her a big thank you and off I went to present Steve with his much admired triple chocolate muffin. She was such a nice lady! Steve hadn’t had much luck with campsites and even though there was one nearby, when he contacted them, it turned out they didn’t have showers. That was a definite requirement in the warmer weather! So we haven’t been able to camp once again. I much prefer to be in our own space with our own things, in our little tent, so I hope we have better luck tomorrow. Still, we are instead in a nice room, beside a small pub in the town and all’s OK.
Today’s ride was flat, hilly, pretty, quaint and windy, so it was a mixed bag of the delightful and the challenging! I guess that’s what it’s all about though, having some tough bits to make the charming bits shine even brighter! I’m sure we’ll have another cocktail of experiences again tomorrow, with a unique blend of ingredients just for us. I hope the wind goes away though, I don’t fancy being shaken or stirred!