Good days, bad days
Bright sunshine, green hedges frothy with white blossom, grippy tarmac on a bendy road and a congenial pillion. That's a good day. Stuck inside, head banging off the keyboard, being driven insane by the house sale that never ends. That's a bad day. So let's talk about the good day. Especially as the ride was brilliant.
It's not that often that I get to take my girlfriend out on the bike. Between childcare and the way wetness seems to appear at the weekends, we haven't had that many rides since sorting her out with some excellent kit – a Held Ladies 4-Touring jacket and matching trousers. But she wasn't working on Thursday, it was sunny… so rather than heading off to my desk – oh the joys of being self-employed – I took the morning off to take her for a spin.
Living near Newmarket, her house is surrounded by brilliant B-roads. The first one, the B1063, kept threatening to be closed but, as I bravely ignored all the "Road Closed" signs, it turned out to be completely open. Admittedly, there were three sets of unattended roadworks on alternating sides of a 200m stretch of the high street in Lidgate – and I daresay that if any workmen show up, they would close it – but not that day.
There's something deeply gratifying about sharing my love of riding with another person. In some ways, riding two-up is very different to riding solo. Everything has to be smooth and gentle, from the gear changes to the turn-in for tight corners, from the acceleration for overtakes to most especially the braking. But the core discipline is identical: read the road well; get a good position nice and early, keep everything rolling along so it flows. It's almost like meditating, it's so calm but involving. Especially on roads as serenely twisty as the B1063 and B1066.
From Clare we headed into Long Melford and then on to half-timbered Lavenham, stopping for a coffee and deliciously self-indulgent cakes at Cafe Nini (the Bakewell tart was outstanding). It's one of those twee tourist-attracting villages stuffed with antique shops and other places that can make a man regret fitting panniers… I practically had to drag my girlfriend away from a display case of antique silver thingummies.
The run back was even better, especially without the spectre of roadworks hanging over it. Down to the gloriously named Sibel Hedingham (surely there was a 1930s starlet named that?) and then up towards Haverhill… veering off just in time to take the B1061 back to Newmarket. A brilliant morning ride.
I got home to start typing... sorry, I mean, carefully crafting prose and found a request from a chap on Twitter for full day's ride starting and finishing in Lichfield. The one unusual request: a stop every hour or so. Actually, that's a great idea. So I duly whittled one for him – heading out into Mid-Wales on a nice mix of roads, getting gradually less challenging as the day goes on and finishing with an undemanding canter back in case he got weary towards the end of the day.
You can download both routes, by the way, if you fancy either.
Today's been less good. I'm in final trip-prep mode for the Big Stupid Trip of a Lifetime… but the house sale that's funding it is going nowhere. Our buyer's solicitor – and if you want to know which firm never to use for a house sale, email me – has wasted about five weeks so far. Three weeks by not responding to emails, because they'd given our solicitor "the wrong email address" and now asking stupid questions that aren't even relevant. I'm at the point of pulling the plug and putting the house back on the market. But then I'd have to delay my trip, which is already – thanks to these idiots – five weeks behind schedule anyway.
But then, if I have to wait and get more good days on the bike with my girlfriend, maybe that wouldn't be so bad – would it?