I fancied a ride this evening. It’s spring. It’s light. It’s Wednesday. It’s been a bitch of a day in the office.
That’s good enough for me.
I had to drop our entry fee for the Village Quiz in at a neighbour’s house so thought I’d call by on the Ural.
As I set off, there was still enough light not to worry the eccentric Ural electrics and the lanes beckoned. The edges of the sky were just starting to crinkle and dim, but that was it.
Living in Bampton has a tendency to resemble The Archers from time to time. This was one of them.
I arrived on Helene’s doorstep just as another neighbour and fellow rider, Reece, got there too. Both of us clutched our Quiz cash in our hands. I knocked. We exchanged bike chat as we waited for Helene to answer the door.
After a few minutes, Helene flung the door open, clearly somewhat flustered. There she stood, in her nightgown with a towel around her head, obviously straight out of the bath. And to find two men at her door, holding out a handful of notes each.
“Oooh, I was expecting someone else!” she said.
The same thought clearly occurred to all of us at the same time.
A few more minutes passed while we struggled – hard – to recover from the laughter. Negotiations were made as the complexities of change from the various notes was worked out. Then, goodnights exchanged, Reece invited me over to see his new machine. This was an old barn-find Divvy 600 he’d just finished restoring. And what a job he’d made of it. Remember those wonderful black and gold JPS Lotus F1 cars from the 1970s? Same colour. Same coachlines. Gorgeous.
We were chatting away when we both turned to listen to the lampost-shooting thump of a big single. The whump-whump-whump got closer and a Yamaha SRX600 pulled up.
“Evening Mike. How’s things?”
So now there’s me, the Ural, Reece and his Divvy and Mike and the SRX. Bikes and helmets littering the lane, chatting away where the Downton Abbey production team had been ragging Lady Mary Crawley’s wedding coach just a couple of weeks earlier. If only the viewers could see it now.
So much for a quiet early evening ride. By the time we’d finished yarning, the sky was purpling and the stars were clocking in for the night. I like riding at night, so quite happily thumbed the starter and headed into the lanes. Ural therapy.
The Ural is no motorway machine. Its natural habitat is backlanes and B roads. Suits me. I hate motorways on a bike.
This evening, the inhabitants came out to watch the silly man on the combo. Lost count of the rabbits, two foxes sitting in the verge, clearly sniggering. And, best of all, an two-owl formation flypast.
I ended up between Bampton and the wonderfully named Chimney, just by the old WWII decoy site for RAF Brize Norton. A neat idea – string a series of electric lights to resemble a runway’s flightpath just a few miles from the real base. The idea was to decoy enemy bombers away from the real target towards the fake field. I wonder what action it saw. The bunker is still there, although full of rubbish now.
It was a clear night and a clear sky. I stopped by the signpost and turned the lights off and looked up. I always love seeing the Plough – it was the first constellation I learned to recognise as a child and I always look for it. It’s a sort of constant for me.
There it shone, just as it had at my first winter evensong as Head Chorister, my first night at University when I was utterly petrified and the evening of the day I started my own business when I was so scared I simply sat on a bench and shook. And so many evenings since.
I grinned as a thought hit me and the day’s stress drained like a lock.
I raised a hand in salute, turned the lights on and turned the bars for home. Somehow the stuff that scares me doesn’t come close to sitting in a concrete bunker in a field on a darkened flood plane waiting to get bombed. By deliberate mistake.
I take life far too seriously sometimes.