So, mid-April saw my big sister’s littlest daughter, Lizzie, marry her OTL, Joe on a perfect spring day – brilliant sunshine but thermals required. Along with it being a massive, red-letter day in the family calendar, I couldn’t suppress my obcyclesession to prepare for cycling from London to Paris, and had also earmarked it as the perfect chance to practice a few hill starts on the bike whilst preparing for the ‘do’.
So – along with The Rock, The Boys and ‘The Cube’ (or my bike) – we headed from NL to England for the big weekend … Sons #1 (A Level) and #2 (GCSE) dragged a trunk load of revision with them and I packed the car with a box of snakes-head fritillaries from The Bosrand to add a Dutch touch to the wedding flowers.
Before we reached wedding-world in Wiltshire, we had an overnighter at party-central in Ditteridge, where the lovely Rowlands family played host to (yet) another Loughborough-themed clan-gathering. This visit had the bonus of including Matt (passport-shy international cyclist) and my pal Sal with an additional air miles upgrade which included a rare sighting of the Johnson family, over from the USA for a quinquennial dose of friends and family!
And so to Wiltshire where boys plugged in to coursework and revision, Tim plugged in to The Masters and I plugged into my clippy shoes and a splash of lycra. First outing went well – a steady gradient to Maiden Bradley and back … not far but certainly a hill. The sun shone and I was content!
Bigger plans grew from this minor victory and on Friday I set off on a circular route which – all being well – would see me fly downhill and as straight as an arrow up the drive to Longleat and then on to Corsley to see my Mum for a cuppa before returning via The eponymous Lions and a long drag up the hill and on towards wedding-world to say hello to the bride!
Well! Who knew I could reach speeds of nearly 90mph on a bicycle?! Certainly not me, I can tell you! This was an unexpected and terrifying turn of events which led me to reassess my fear of ascents. Not for long though. I was catching on; for every down there is an up – usually in step with my positive philosophy for life – I was NOT feeling it in this case. Simply put, I learned that approximately 6 turns of the pedal into any gradient, I would change gear … heading for the ‘granny ring’ at the front … and my chain would come off, wrap itself around itself and all forward momentum would cease. Immediately.
“Who cares?” you yawn – well, actually I did – a lot … after all, I was the one with special clippy shoes, welded to the pedals by what could have been the worlds most powerful magnet (the magnetar!) and superglue combo. This binding attachment to my bike, along with a lack of forward motion, meant only one thing – and it hurt. It hurt on the first bend up hill near County Cottage, it hurt on the crest of the hill near Stalls Farm, it hurt again on the short sharp spike of a hill at the bottom of Fuzzy Lane – thankfully there was tea and TLC with Mum to take my mind off it!
But that didn’t last long. My mind back on it, and a new-found deftness at re-chaining my bike, I was beginning to realise that clipping in was not always wise – nor was changing gear – and neither for that matter were bloody hills! As I pushed my bike up the long slow drag out of Longleat, I wondered how bobsleigh racers trained and considered that to be a useful part of my future training programme if I was to remain incapable of hillage on my bike.
A bit miserable about hills, I soon perked up as I reached a frenetic corner of Longbridge Deverill which was strewn with gazillions of my favourite people – my family: my sister, my brothers both in and out of law, nieces, nephews, and lots of great same-agains. I was deaf to the rudeness of boys who should know better than to remark on my lycra get-up and baboon-bottom trews – it was just heaven! I had to cycle home though …
The day of the ‘do’ dawned a little drizzly, but perked up in time for a quick (uneventful) pedal over to hoover the marquee in readiness for all those kitten heels and brogues to tromp grass all over it again, but standards are standards and I was happy to do it.
The wedding was perfect. We had added Mum to our number and were in place for the 3pm wedding … whilst everyone else had been invited to the one at 3.30, so we plenty of time to spectate all the hats and getups. Joe had a very special black-eye for the occasion and Lizzie – who was traffic-stoppingly beautiful – made it up the aisle without too many tears in evidence (a character trait of hers, not for fear of marrying Joe!). The sun poured in on a church full of happy people singing big hymns and loving life – brave cousin-Katie sang a foot-tappingly beautiful gospel song and when rings were traded and signatures etched, we all spilled outside beneath blue skies and confetti. With photos snapped by the brilliant Christopher Jelph, there followed a long and lovely evening fuelled with champagne and three ‘just’ speeches in every way: each was just long enough, just rude enough, and just plain funny. With a delicious meal, great guests and plenty of dancing, it was a wonderful wedding for a right pair … I didn’t once think about up-hill cycling.