Barling, Wakering and Shopping

I had intended to stay at home, being under the weather and all, but when the sun threatened to break through, and I was fed up with my knees seizing up every time I stood up because I’d been sitting still for too long, the Mercian kept on telling me it wanted to go to the sea front. We armed ourselves with a small batch of yesterday’s Welsh cakes to drop off at Aunty Phyllis’s and off we went.

Phyllis appreciated the Welsh cakes, but I declined the offered cup of tea, not wishing to give her my cold, and then it was down Lifstan Way, not quite reaching 30 mph, and on to the cycle path. The promenade was fairly crowded with both pedestrians and cyclists, and I adopted a leisurely Sunday afternoon speed, but even so I found myself catching up with other cyclists who, when they realised I was there, invited me to overtake. I wound my way round Gunners Park, hoping to catch a glimpse of the swallow which was allegedly there a couple of days ago, but it had gone and taken summer with it.

The wind turbines were clearly visible from East Beach, white fingers against a leaden sky, but this time I avoided Wakering Stairs, making straight for the Co-op where a bottle of white was selected to accompany this evening’s lamb. Not the ideal combination, but my younger daughter won’t drink red.

I had scarcely left the Co-op when a cyclist, looking very serious on his Scott road bike and sporting his Discovery Channel top, went past far too close for comfort and, having established a gap of about 30 yards, seemed to slow down. I’ve read many a report about “I wound up a roadie last night” or some such, and I had the feeling that his burst of speed to get past me was for mere bravado, so I pushed the pedals a little harder.

My friend did not get away. Indeed, I gained the impression that his physique was such that the lycra was bulging in the wrong places for a true athete, and for the next two or three miles I kept comfortably a few seconds behind him, despite being weighed down by my saddle bag of purchases in the form of wine, grapes, bananas and a toothbrush, and each time he looked over his shoulder, there I was.

As we reached Mucking Hall Road and the headwind, so he gradually dropped me, but I had another trick which I thought amusing: I would take the bridleway, which, although inevitably slower than the road, was about a mile shorter. My plan was to come out ahead of him, let him overtake me again, and then follow him back to Southend.

The plan was about half-way towards its execution when two dog-walkers came in view. I slowed down and then spotted that one of the pooches was a red setter.

“Snap!”, said I, and then it dawned on me that the dog was none other than Freddie, whom I had met only the previous morning whilst walking Morphy in the park. Freddie’s owner and I chatted for a while and then we parted company. When I reached the road, my Discovery Channel man was long gone but I timed my homecoming to perfection, just as Jan was pouring the boiling water on the teabags.

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