Last Monday was Mayday bank holiday, and it didn’t snow, or even rain. I thought I’d better do a full day of cycling, since I’m very much a fair weather cyclist, and the forecast wasn’t so good for the rest of the week.
I wasn’t brave enough to put the cello on the bike though, so to compensate for that failure I rode up and down Hartside six times. Six times. Whoever does that?
Six times 1300 feet, and then a bit extra, to make it up to 8000 feet. Twice more and I would have done the equivalent of sea level to the highest point I’m going over the Alps. I nearly tried, but I knew I wouldn’t make it.
So today, Saturday, and less than three weeks before I have to do this properly, I had to put the cello on the bike and do a proper ride.
Kirkby Stephen (no-one who doesn’t live there can actually spell it) is nearly 30 miles away. I don’t think I’ve ever been there, and they say it’s a nice town. I’ll give it a go.
I set the borrowed satnav, pointed the bike in the direction it said, and set off. I can see that this satnav and I are going to have to work out who’s boss. And it’s going to have to be me.
Are you joking? I had to ask it more than once. Roads that were little more than tracks, wide enough for two sheep to pass, but not a bike and a Range Rover. Potholes that made the cello squeak and moan in protest. Twice I had to stop, and open the case, and give us both a tranquillizer.
And then the firing range. Warcop, it’s called. Seems a fair name. No entry. Do not enter. Do not stop. Do not get out of your vehicle. Beware live firing. No entry – unexploded ordnance. Etc., etc. But the red flags weren’t actually flying, and I didn’t hear any actual explosions. There’s mile after mile of it, though, and I didn’t like it. At least there was no traffic.
Kirkby Stephen is, as the advertisements claim, a beautiful place. I was welcomed by pealing church bells. (That was actually for a grand wedding, not for me, but never mind). I rode up and down the main street a couple of times, trying to muster the courage to stop and get the cello out.
I spoke sternly to myself, picked a spot at random, and parked up. I went into the pub, waited my turn, and then pointed at the bike through the window. Could I play my cello on the pavement outside your pub? Of course, of course, that would be nice, make yourself at home!
I played for an hour, wishing it was just a little bit warmer. Lots of passing cars lowered their windows. One elderly couple passed me three times, looking slightly doubtful. A young Kirkby Stephenite, who described himself as a photographer, was very pleased when I asked him to take some photos. The proprietor of the cafe next door came out in a quiet moment, and was very keen to have some photos with his cafe in the background.
The sun came out as I drank tea in the cafe, and then went in again as soon as I got back on the bike. But I got home, and all day it hadn’t rained, and I’d met some very interesting people in Kirkby Stephen, and I gave Warcop a very wide berth on the return, despite the borrowed satnav flashing red lights at me in displeasure, and I thought maybe – just maybe – I can do this, after all.