Brexit-on-the-Lyne; Between a Granite and a Hard Place
Wednesday 1 August; to Peebles
Posterboy ‘May be yes, May be no’ Ben declared, at his latest photo opp at the Charwood Grill, “I am absolutely clear that we do not know where we’re going. We have no final destination and no plan of how to get there.”
“But PM” interjected John Jacob Moggy Nosewipe (to give him his full name), “we know we are going to take back control of our riding guidelines. No more petty regulations about riding in straight lines from pettifogging, unelected bureaucrats in Orchard House.” Fearing that R M was going to get into top gear, ex-Attorney General, Jude the Guid interrupted’ “Nanny here Moggy, remember regulations are here to protect us and keep us safe.”
“Enough already, the riders have spoken, we must fulfil the wishes of the majority of those who bothered to vote, and head off into God knows where. A CTC ride means a CTC ride and we want to have our cake and eat it,” we all chorused together.
Michel Barnstormer provided the first test of Brexit Secretary David ‘Red Card’ Lambie’s negotiating position when he explained to him at Loanhead, that a ‘Road Closed’ sign meant this was a red line which the EU would not let us cross. Red Card was non-plussed, “but we wanted to come this way.” The Scottish Government delegation, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Thwarting the UK Government at Every Turn, Ian Buchan, proved a little more nimble in finding a detour round this road block.
Negotiations on a Brexit deal continued to face head winds at every turn, especially across Auchencorth Moss. But with Posterboy ‘May’ breaking us up into small teams, he was able to report to Parliament, at an away day outside the public toilets in West Linton, good progress on reaching a divorce settlement. Slogans on buses would now read “Minus £350m per week for the next 5 years.”
“Is this a hard border or a technologically assisted border?” piped up Yvonne the Stowaway as we crossed from Midlothian into the Scottish Borders. Being from Northern Ireland she would have an interest in such matters. “We need some regulatory alignment of custom and practice while riding. We don’t want to breach the Good Friday Agreement established with the Picts after the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685.” Having said this she promptly disappeared.
“Oh, this is far too soft a Brexit” the hard Brexiteers among the riders complained as we tootled along the Lyne in the drizzle, enjoying the view, and the river, and nature all around us. “We’re looking forward to the Granites; hard, hard stuff, where our true CTC character of grit, determination and enjoyment of austerity will shine forth and we will prove ourselves worthy of our forefathers in Harrogate who founded the CTC 140 years ago.”
Lunch was taken in the pretty Peebleshire town of, wait for it, Peebles, where those Leavers among us still suffering from post-colonial delusions had colonised a children’s play park for our exclusive use. Visit Scotland, Or Anywhere rep, Cathy ‘Smiley’ Riley and International Secretary for Finding Somebody, AnyBody Who Might Do A Deal With Us, Senga enjoyed a working lunch discussing the prospects of a trade delegation to Japan. This working lunch appeared to continue into a working tea, but it is not clear whether it continued all afternoon.
Our negotiating position and skills were further tested as we tried to scale the granite face presented by the EU, without any idea whether we wanted a hard or soft Brexit or just wanted to jump off the cliff. Health Secretary, Rachel Ferguson, decided to strike out on her own. She wanted to find out, in the likelihood of a No Deal scenario, whether there was a pot of medicines under a rainbow somewhere. Evidence soon mounted up that this was not going to happen, so she returned to the true Brexit path of scaling granite walls in the face of all evidence that this is a hard grind and there are no sunny uplands. Once you get to the top, you have to descend.
There were however four convinced Leavers, who thought the only answer lay in racing to the top in order to reach the promised land that much sooner. They obviously thought that ‘May be’s’ latest plan was like, as the colourful phrase has it, ‘polishing a turd’ and they would rather go off and chase unicorns.
The Remainers made their dubious way up the granite wall, hoping against hope that something might turn up. Would those who always hug the left of the road gain some momentum and start throwing their weight around? Would ‘May be’ do a Duke of York and, having led us all to the top of the hill, lead us down again? Or would the Scots think, ‘enough of all this, we’re out of here?’
Given the small number who gathered at Dolly’s to have their cake and eat it, it looked like there was a majority for the option of ‘we’re out of here’. Many of them were quite wet. But those who gathered to discuss the day’s events thought away-days of this sort were a worthwhile exercise. At least one had a plan for a couple of days, even if it did need polishing.
Three punctures and a 136kmh max speed
Sunday 22 July to Hailes Castle
Ah, there’s no need to write a blog as Cathy Smiley Riley has done a comprehensive account of her own. Perhaps this should be required of all leaders. But a few observations…
We welcomed Robyn on her first ride back after a long layoff for injury. All morning we were marshalled from the front by Ezekiel – seemingly a younger, darker, moustachioed version of Sir Bill – and from the back by Marian.
There were popular culture and Tour de France themes running through the day. The soft tyre belonged to Roseanne, who it transpired should really be called Essie. She happily co-ordinated a transfusion of air into her tyre.
The next puncture had an interesting take on gender relations in terms of the carrying of bicycle tools. Wife Karen was carrying the one tool Ian claimed he needed to mend his puncture and she was miles ahead. The rest of us didn’t mind the delay as we were gorging on delicious wayside raspberries. And then poor Robyn was welcomed back to cycle touring with two punctures in quick succession.
I can’t see that anyone matched the 136 kmh recorded by Romain Bardet after his third puncture on stage nine of the Tour, but, wind-assisted, we made good time through Haddington and on to lunch at Hailes Castle. (Google can explain how he got to that speed.)
In the meantime Pooch, Yvonne the Stowaway and Irene Paterson were doing their magic disappearing and then re-appearing acts. Now you see them, now you don’t. At least Irene, having magically appeared at lunch, stayed with us throughout the afternoon, perhaps through good back-marking by Sandy.
At lunch there was a Poldark moment as a number of the women riders spotted and unfavourably compared an innocent, older man, stripped to his waist as he worked with his horses, to Aidan Turner.
As we cycled through Athelstaneford I asked one of the other riders if he had caught the name of the big man at the front. He thought for a moment and then said, “no, but Borat perhaps?” It seemed wonderfully apt, but will it stick?
Anyway, that was almost the last we saw of ‘Borat’ as not long afterwards he and Gordon overshot the turning on Bangley Hill and ended up in Tranent enjoying a much longed for liquid refreshment. We know one or two of the Wednesday riders who might have been happy to join them.
At our tea stop in Cockenzie House, some of the women present were enchanted to discover that they can have their bums measured to ensure they get the right size saddle. The group had properly gelled by this time and at Fisherrow we were sad to say goodbye to Cheryl who is returning to Canada and life under a new populist state Premiere.
Tour de Fife
Wednesday 25th July to Falkland
Massed crowds – one man and a dog – gathered expectantly at Roseburn Bridge to wave off the riders in the Tour de Fife, the annual highlight of the CTC race calendar. A helicopter (a holiday-maker playing with a video camera mounted on a drone) buzzed overhead to record every move and excitement of this famous race. And on behalf of race sponsor, Fife Tourist Board, show off the fabulous locations of Puddledub, Cardenden and Cowdenbeath.
For the benefit of newcomers, Race Controller, Sir Bill explained that 10 points are awarded for the winner of each stage, with 8 and 6 points for the second and third riders across the line. Riders also compete for a King of the Mountain jersey, with 4 points for a category three climb, 6 for a category two climb and 8 for a category one climb. The peloton would be back-marked by Brian ‘Sunny Orange’ Curtis
Team WhatsApp had had to scratch when Gordon failed doping control as the team doctor, Dame Iron Sides had been feeding him performance enhancing drugs in an effort to get him fit to compete.
Stage 1, from Roseburn to Inverkeithing included a category 3 climb, but there was a mass sprint at the top, in deference to the Race Controller, so no overall winner could be identified. The stage was won by Ewen, for Team Brompton, but as he had only joined the stage at Cramond Brig he was docked 5 points. Second and third were Posterboy for Team Athena and Cheryl (SA) for Team Safaricom.
In stage 2, from Inverkeithing to Auchtertool, Marian suffered a nasty fall trying to execute a 90 degree turn. Clearly winded and with a sore ankle, she was soon back on her bike as lead rider for Team Monday Girls. “If this had been the Tour de France you would all have been away in a few seconds,” she thanked other concerned riders.
The stage descended into further chaos as the Race Controller suffered a sudden loss of air pressure in his tyre. He sent every one off as he tried to fix it, but no one was clear whether there were now two races, an A and a B one, and who was in which race. The one category 2 climb appears to have been won by Posterboy, although he could have been pipped by Rachel of Team Perfect Pooches.
A disclaimer should be added here, as your reporter, who was unsuccessfully ghosting in Team Safaricom for his fellow countryman, Chris Froome, was not always in the best position to see who had reached the summit first or won the stage. He had recruited a local stringer, Billy-Bob Fowler to report from the front, but as he spent most of the ride giving a lot of care and attention as back-marker, he was in no better position to report.
Stage 3, from Auchtertool to Tanshall, descended into farce as, after the recommended toilet stop at the golf club, no one could find the lunch spot. Frantic riders were asking every available passer-by for directions and eventually all gathered in the park. As a result no stage winner points were awarded. Teams Athena and Evergreens were weakened as Jill ‘the Planks’ McBain and ‘Sunny Orange,’ with the permission of the Race Controller, scratched from Stage 4 and took alternative routes home. ‘Sunny Orange’ however, completed the regulation 80+ miles.
Stage 4, Tanshall to Falkland included the main climb of the day, a category 1 climb. With the field well spread out, Ewen confirmed that he had won the climb and also the stage. On the fast descent into Falkland a serious incident happened to no other than Alistair ‘Crash’ Cranston as a rear spoke broke and mangled his chain and derailleur. Luckily he was able to control his bicycle and no accident or injury ensued. He decided however to retire at Pillars of Hercules, the ride’s designated pit-stop.
Stage 5, from Falkland to Scotlandwell saw another retiral from the Evergreens, with Phyto-Phil pulling out to make his own way home with Liz ‘the Hipster’. Ewen was again breaking away from the pack, winning both the category 2 and category 3 climbs. No one in the peloton was prepared to organise to give chase; most seemed to want to behave like Basil Fotherington-Thomas (from ‘Down With Skool’), with his curly blond locks, and skip along saying, “hullo sky, hullo sunshine, hullo view.” But Ewen suffered a puncture within sight of the stage finish and finished well down in this and the following stages. Posterboy or Cheryl (SA) would have won the stage.
Stage 6, from Scotlandwell to Inverkeithing was a much more urban stage than heretofore. The category 2 climb was probably contested between Posterboy and Cheryl (SA) as was the stage win. Unfortunately Mark ‘Can’ McCann was also forced to retire, leaving only Sir Bill standing as the final member of Team Evergreens. Team Perfect Pooches, sponsored by local dog grooming salon, Perfect Pooches of Lochgelly, attracted much support with local dogs barking them on their way.
Stage 7 was meant to be from Inverkeithing to the start, but no one wanted to race any more. Some took the train, others had cars in Inverkeithing or South Queensferry. All made their weary way home as best they could, after 80 gruelling miles. Preliminary results indicate that Ewen should be awarded both the polka dot and yellow jerseys.
To Ashkirk, Wednesday 18 July 2018
Rumours abound that a new cult is sweeping across the Lothians and Borders. This involves excessive adulation and worship of varieties of two-wheeled, in-line means of personal transport.
Cult leader, Rev D Ross, aka The Care Giver, assisted by High Priest Sir Bill, yesterday led an evangelising and proselytising mission to the Borders. At least twenty acolytes joined them to spread the word. Among them were the cult’s poster boy and girl, Ben and Jude, plus official photographer, Sandy ‘Pic’ Paterson and it was nice to see Ian ‘Beanie’ Robertson in a group shot. A notable absentee however was wee Gordie, who was apparently in thrall to another household god, a new kitchen.
Starting at Innerleithen they followed a circular route to all the airts and pairts of Ettrickdale, including visits to Alemoor Reservoir, Tushielaw and the Gordon Arms and finally over Paddy Slacks to Traquair. Along the way they made a number of converts to the cult, who joined on them on their pilgrimage in honour of their new deity.
It does not appear that the mission had to perform the ritual known as a ‘mechanical’ used to appease and repair the object of the cult. It is also a syncretic cult, in that the members are willing to adopt the rituals of other religions, like mopping up the offerings left after a Christian funerary rite.
Members apparently spent time studying and practicing the best means of ingesting and disposing of the sacred and shamanistic fluid, lactic acid, used to create the obligatory sore muscles involved in the cult. And The Care Giver was pictured leading his flock in adopting the correct posture when offering obeisance to the two-wheeled deity.
The finale of the day’s mission was the high piece of any ritual involving a bicycle; a long, smooth, curving descent at high speed to the final resting place.
(Posted by an envious non-participant in the cult’s premier summer ritual.)
CTC Swallows and Amazons Five Ferries Expedition
Ardrossan – Tarbert – Ardrossan, 27 & 28 June 2018
All winter Captain Peter ‘Bluetooth’ Valente had been dreaming of leading an expedition of CTC Swallows and Amazons on a Five Ferries Expedition. His plan was to explore the unknown islands of Arran and Bute and the mini-fjords of Kintyre. Night after night he had sat in his first-floor eyrie, scouring the maps, wondering whether to go north from Brodick, under the towering heights of Goat’s Fell, or south around the gentler coasts and dally on the way to Lochranza.
Mother, aka Dame Iron Sides, had given permission for the expedition in a telegram. “Better crashed than old buffers, if not old buffers won’t crash.”
The large crew recruited to fill the ferries all assembled as arranged at Ardrossan Harbour, some by car, some by rail. But where were the two Amazons, Bosun Fairydust and Ship’s Navigator, Heather ‘Pooch’ Porteous? Frantic phone calls to Able Sea Person Sue ‘Skylark’ established they were doing an unscheduled tour of North Lanarkshire and even Ms Google had stopped talking to them. Luckily they resumed their journey to North Ayrshire and arrived just in time to catch the ferry.
The Ship’s Cat, Liz ‘Hipster’ Sutherland was purring a welcome to everyone when we discovered to our delight we had a stowaway. Yvonne had smuggled herself aboard and was trying to pass as the young Cabin Boy. Bosun Fairydust announced sadly that Ship’s Artist-in-Residence, Jude ‘the Guid’ was indisposed and would not be joining us. Ship’s Purser, Joan, quickly altered the registrations of these members of the expedition.
The anchor was raised, the painter untied from the dock and the good ship MV Isle of Arran sailed smoothly from Ardrossan setting her course for Brodick. The sea was like glass and the sky blue, with only the faintest breeze from the north, as we made good time of the crossing. Cap’n Bluetooth gave us his orders; “Slather yourselves with sun-tan lotion as we don’t want to call on the Ship’s Sawbones, ‘Smiley’ Riley, to relieve any sunburn. And set your electronic navigation devices beforehand as we want to leave promptly as soon as the ship docks.” “Aye, aye cap’n” we all chorused.
1st Mate Davie-boy ‘Red Card’ Lambie took charge of the disembarkation of the expedition’s equipment of bicycles, stores, luggage and stuffed bumbags, as sported by Bosun. This was quickly distributed among the expedition members and we set off south to Lamlash. It was soon apparent that ‘Hills’ Hilary should be appointed as Ship’s Lookout, as the call went up “look out, Hills coming past” on every descent, closely followed by her side-kick Able Sea Person Mo and pursued by 2nd Mate, Colin ‘Shakin’ Stevenson.
The expedition continued smoothly through the sea-side towns of Lamlash, with its fine views of the mysterious Holy Island, and Whiting Bay, round the south of the island to Laggs Hotel. Here the Cooks’ Collective of Bosun Fairydust, and Able Sea Persons Jan ‘Wee Midge’ Ure and Skylark organised great slabs of Italian ciabatta filled rolls, piping bowls of hot soup, followed by slabs of lemon drizzle cake and all washed down with lashings of lemon San Pellegrino fizz and cappuccino coffee. The expedition took an ethnographic interest in a native priest and his ritual use of alcohol with his parishioners. It mostly seemed to involve a chant of “your round, Jimmy”.
After luncheon, Ship’s Blogger ‘Nosewipe’ volunteered to be back-marker. The peloton had crested the first steep hill when Ship’s Engineer, Ian ‘Beanie’ Robertson was called upon to earn his keep; by fixing his own puncture. This was tricky to do and so the two lost touch with the main expedition. While working hard to catch up they kept being overtaken and then slowed down by an annoying ‘Dog-Trotters’ red camper van. Rushing through Blackwaterfoot, without so much as getting their feet wet, they managed to regain touch with the Ship’s Cat and the expedition’s Chief Botanist, Phyto-Phil Rankin.
The laggards wearily drew into Lochranza to discover an advance party, led by 1st Mate Red Card, had taken an earlier ferry to Claonaig to prepare the expedition’s camping grounds and feeding arrangements at Tarbert. The remoaners sat participating in the native ritual of imbibing cool and fortifying glasses of Arran Blonde, Purser Joan flexed her quads, and the Ship’s Cat, who unusually loves water, and Able Sea Person Skylark enjoyed a wee douk, before all embarked on the next ferry.
As they disembarked at Claonaig and wound up the hill along the narrow single track road, the ‘Dog Trotter’ camper van pushed rudely past them. There was much muttering about the dangers of such driving and the antagonism shown towards cyclists. Nevertheless good time was made over the hill and down the main road to food and lodgings.
“Be washed and scrubbed and ready to eat by 7.30” called Cap’n Bluetooth. The Cooks’ Collective had laid a groaning table of haddock, chips and peas, lamb shank and steak pie, with foaming pints of ale to wash it down. “Be at the ferry terminal at 9.00 tomorrow” were the last orders from the 1st Mate. After a short turn along the harbour, we crawled tired and happy into our own beds and fell fast asleep.
Next morning there was porridge, kippers and a full Scottish breakfast with thick slices of toast and marmalade washed down with pots of tea and coffee. It was another day of bright, strong sunshine and we all assembled cheerily to catch our third ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula. As we made the crossing the friendly native boatman pointed out a dolphin jumping in the bay.
We climbed steadily out of Portavadie into the wooded hills until we came to a crossroads. “Decision time” said Cap’n Peter, “either over the hill to Tighnabruaich or the longer and flatter road round the peninsula. I can’t promise you any wildebeest on these empty plains, but some fine South Devons and dolphins in the bay.” Only the Cabin Boy wanted to go over the hill and promptly stowed away somewhere else, never to be seen again on this expedition. The rest of us grumbled round the peninsula, “we thought you said this was flat” but were rewarded with stunning views of Arran floating over the water in the haze.
Cooks’ Collective managed to rustle us up some coffee and scones in a small, expedition-friendly cafe in Tighnabruaich. “You’ll need to take on board some provisions now” they warned, “Navigator says there’s a long hill to climb and no more food for 17 miles.”
The hill lay lang and steep and all in the village, it seemed, decided to drive it as we puffed up the narrow track. We were soon spread out and although the road widened, we still had a long way to the viewpoint at the top. Able Sea Person Skylark had a mechanical and she and Navigator Pooch had to stop.
The rest reached the viewpoint and crossed the road into the lay-by. We admired the view down the Kyles of Bute and waited for the back-markers. As they appeared over the brow of the hill, there was suddenly a stream of on-coming traffic and they had to wait in the road before crossing safely. To our horror, coming over the brow, we saw the dreaded ‘Dog Trotter’ camper van. “Jump in the ditch” yelled the Ship’s Sculptor Dougie as the van roared past, with the driver’s face in the windscreen contorted in an evil grin. “OMG he was about to mow you down” said Nosewipe, “we came very close to having a horrible end to our expedition”. (Dramatic license has been taken here.)
Nothing daunted, we caught our breath, layered on more sun-tan lotion and insect repellent and scooted down the hill, with the tarmac melting beneath our tyres. Not even another long climb to our next hostelry and ferry at Colintraive was going to spoil our day. We shared this most hospitable stop with a band of natives on e-bikes, and felt envious and uppity in equal measure.
At this point Cap’n Bluetooth decided to split the expedition. Those who were cycling from Wemyss Bay back to Ardrossan would press ahead. Along the way Cooks’ Collective seem to have whipped up frothings of ice-cream in Rothesay and fish and chips when they safely arrived tired and hungry in Ardrossan.
Those who were catching a train home from Wemyss Bay – Ship’s Cat, Botanist, Engineer and Blogger – dawdled along through Bute to Rothesay. Even Lookout and Able Sea Person Mo were taking it easy. The Cat and Blogger went for another douk, while the Botanist was stung by rare marine plants swirling round his ankles. They arrived in Rothesay and were straight onto the ferry – no time even to enjoy an ice-cream – then the train, to swelter through a long, hot journey home to Edinburgh with the rail-tracks melting beneath their wheels.
It was a tiring end to what we all agreed had been a most excellent adventure (although there was nobody called Bob or Ted on it). Nobody there could now say the islands of Arran or Bute or the mini-fjords of Kintyre were unexplored. In some it re-kindled their love of islands; for others their love of continental cycling on melting tarmac in the heat. And for all it was the joy of cycling in sharing, considerate and happy company. While we’re sure those who were with him at the end heartily thanked Cap’n Bluetooth for all his efforts, we all echo, “Swallows and Amazons, Five Ferries, Three Cheers for Peter”.
From an idea by Fairydust
A Cyclist’s Playlist – Kirkcudbright away trip, 12th and 13th June 2018
As organised, meticulously as always, by Dame Iron Sides, we met in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s church for an obligatory photo showing off everyone’s new red tops. There were a few recalcitrant members still in blue.
As we set off this song, On The Road Again by Willie Nelson cycled onto the list.https://streamable.com/9l7fb
Cycling along I realised we had Brian ‘Sunny Orange’ Curtis with us and I thought, in his honour, should be on the list: https://streamable.com/4ooun
Unfortunately the playlist doesn’t include anything for Keith, our new person, who spotted our first red kite.
On the main hill of the day Jo-Jo was back marking, so she can’t be included in this, but there were others, who we might loosely call Fairydust and the Fandangos doing this: https://streamable.com/46mk7
At the bottom of the hill, at a crossroads, the Rev D Ross, Iain and Jill ‘the Plank’ McBain left us to take a shorter route home.https://streamable.com/yf6zh
We had lunch at New Galloway and Janet and Gordon were comparing notes on the relative merits of bridies from Dundee and Glasgow and other delights of the mean streets from which they hail. So this seemed appropriate: https://streamable.com/hxq9r
And while on the subject of the Boss, many of us had attended Doug ‘the Sculpture’s degree show, so this played in his honour. https://streamable.com/f6cr4
At Rhonestone, 10 miles from home and looking for our coffee stop, the road was blocked for re-gritting, so we had to find an alt route to Threave and then home, at which the route planners excelled. https://streamable.com/yf6zh
Finally, I had thought this would be me, but we had no stragglers coming back into Kirkcudbright. Still, it’s a nice way to sign off: https://streamable.com/c448r
I hope this works for some of you.