2000 miles for Help for Heroes – Day 32 – 26 May

13th June 2010

The more alert among you will have noticed the radio silence of the last 13 days. Two reasons: 1. The Editor has been away and then very busy with half-term and audits. 2. I have had to rush to my wife Molly’s bed side in France after a kind of minor heart failure from which she is now recovering, thank God. Anyway, life goes on so here follows the next instalment of my journey.

Wednesday 26 May

Odometer – 1920 miles. Nassington – Ware (70 miles).

Woke at 05:30. Sorted myself out quietly, Deefer Dog following me wherever I went in this ancient Prebendal Manor, staring at me on the loo. Then I had breakfast with the rest of the household. James set off, leading me through winding lanes to the Roman road which joins Ermine Street (the Great North Road) running parallel to the A1 (the best road surface of the whole journey so far). We parted at the top of Ermine Street. The countryside is lovely, English and cool (atmosphere, temperature, psychologically). After some miles, I met Niall Fitzgerald, by appointment. He took some footage and we set off , chatting away. At lunch we stopped at the Queen Adelaide (God bless her) in Croydon, Cambs (?) – a really excellent meal. On the way, I had snarled my gears and Niall had unravelled them. The receptionist, quite rightly, said we could have no food until our hands were clean. We were sent to the Gents and on our return were told to turn our hands over so she could inspect both sides before we were permitted to eat. Then Niall had to go at Royston – something about an appointment for an interview with a hairdresser – I don’t know, the modern world moves too fast for me. So I cycled on to Ware where two old gents sent me to the Old Vic (“it usually has rooms”) and it had, for £35 with breakfast.

I had arrived at 18:30 after 10 ½ hours’ cycling. I went to the local Tandoori because in my experience Indian restaurants have always provided good food and service. This one was true to form… “Le Spice Merchant” (I didn’t ask). The Manager, Mr Imran Chandahadry, approached during poppadom and chutney while I was writing my log.
“Excuse me; I see you are cycling for Help for Heroes. Were you a soldier?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Me too.”
He was the third of four generations of soldiers. His grandfather was in the 17th Lancers, a fact of which he was very proud. He himself joined and became a Sgt Major in the British Army before transferring to the Bangladeshi Army and getting commissioned. His son is also commissioned in the same, as is his daughter. We saluted each other. He contributed £10 on the spot and asked for an explicit receipt as a souvenir and memento. I had to insist on paying for the meal – we were soldiers and equals. On my way out, I passed some people next to the door who had been talking about H4H and Headley Court (I gather it’s been in the news); one leaned forward and donated another fiver.

On my way to Ware, a man drove past, pulled over and got out. He was built like the proverbial door of a municipal convenience. He crushed my hand and asked what I was doing, so I thought I’d better tell him.
“I’m going to tell all my work colleagues about you. And persuade them to fork out.”
I didn’t think many would decline his invitation, even if they did play in the front row of his particular rugger team. He was mid-forties; short dark hair; tall, wide and… gigantic. Total given today was about £38. Total given on the journey so far has been £700.

A sticky moment in Royston: at a pinch in the road, a lorry from behind decided not to wait and edged closer and closer, eventually grazing the handle bars, causing me to wobble. As he pulled away, I just managed to stay upright. The car behind was outraged and roared off in pursuit of the lorry.

Ed: To bed now; stay tuned for the next instalment. If you’ve been meaning to, why not visit the Just Giving site below. Having exceeded the £6000 target, and with at least £2000 received elsewhere, Chris is trying to reach £10,000!

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