After minor surgery I was not allowed a strenuous ride on Wednesday. I was all for coasting up to Caterham to at least meet the B riders, and take it from there. Maggie, declared otherwise, and with the news that Colin would be in isolation on Saturday and I would have to lead the Beddington Ride, this gave us an opportunity to try out a new route, proposed by Colin, to a new Cafe, at Elmers End.
You had to pick your weather report come Saturday, for although they all forecast heavy rain, they differed on its timing. I selected the BBC National forecast because it was the only one that said it would not be raining during ride time. Gone lunchtime, when the usual crew might be leaving their homes, the precipitation was fairly steady, the clouds a threatening blue-grey but, hey, I had science on my side. Maggie and I set out to man the Beddington Beginners station fully expecting to find no takers, and indeed there were those of faint heart who had chosen to trust the wrong weather forecast, but as we rounded Beddington Cricket Club we were delighted to spy a cyclist at the Pavilion and amazed to discover Ken "I never go out in the rain". Even better, Sharon turned up to show off her new bike. And the rain stopped.
The stay-at-homers have no idea what they were missing; Croydon after the rain is a poetic experience. It is a little known fact that it was hearing the Pigeons and Seagulls cooing and crying on Purley Way after the rainfall that inspired Beethoven to write his Pastoral Symphony. And Joy, for whom, three symphonies later the Ode to Joy was written; she lived in Queens Road. So where better to celebrate weak sunshine than around the damp multicultural stalls of Broad Green on a Saturday where modern musical masterpieces are being written?
Maggie was the one who was unwittingly to be most immersed in the Croydon experience. A friendly motorist left a gap for us in the queue so that we could turn right on the London Road, but a driver coming the other way, from our right, indicated left and then changed his mind, accelerating towards Norbury as if we were not there, and colliding with Maggie's bike.
Leading, I was unaware of the drama behind me until Maggie, a little shaken, turned up at the rendezvous spot to say her bike had been hit by a car, which had driven off. Everybody was in no doubt there had been a collision but Maggie's front wheel spun well and true (once she had taken her hand off the brake) and it took a forensic examination of the most thorough kind to spot that the paint had been taken off her front wheel hub nut. She was desolate; a scratch on her blue bicycle! She was also pretty lucky.
On with the ride, shaken but not stirred, through the handful of fans going to Selhurst Park, along the path by the Selhurt Railway Club and through Heavers Meadow, a green space I'd never even noticed. If you pretended there were no railway sidings and chose to ignore the men attending to the call of nature in the bushes, you could have felt you were deep in the idyllic English Countryside. We zig-zagged our way through North Croydon to the Croydon Arena (where Croydon Football Club were just starting their match) and over the wet cobbles to cross South Norwood Country Park, a candidate for United Nations Heritage status if ever there was one.
We were dry, and the cafe for which we were aiming, Branching Out, proved a splendid Coffee Shop with good coffee, excellent cakes and an awning to protect us from the rain. And when it stopped, we followed Colin's quiet route home, through the leafy suburbs of Shirley Oaks and Addiscombe to enter Croydon through Park Hill Park.
We were all quite cheered up after our leisurely Saturday ride as we passed the rebuilt Elizabethan brick wall along Church Path in Beddington. And somewhere in the sought-after back streets of Fort Neaf some cool dude has a scratch on his precious motor.