For the previous 3 years’ summer socials Susanne & Joyce had stuck to Brighton venues – the beach at Banjo Groyne in 2008, Devil’s Dyke via NCN 82 Brighton’s Gateway to the new South Downs National Park, & our own dear Preston Park with its cycle track & plenty of outdoor games, but this year was a westward trek to Brooklands Park at Lancing with a choice of travel plans. Mick & I took the train option due to my accident 10 weeks ago & weakened state, as did Fred, though on an earlier train. Leon & his Joyce came by car, as did Ian & Sue, though they made a later arrival. Suzanne led Roger, Joyce, Jim, John & Jo from the Palace Pier all the way by the seafront track, apart from the deviation in the middle where they unfortunately got lost. How did they manage that?
Weather started out warm & I’d packed swimming costume & towels for the hoped for swim in nearby sea, but that was not to be. At least it wasn’t as windy as the 2008 picnic, though Jo had had to battle a 12mph headwind & needed to recover, since their Italian holiday had worsened her health after our Loire cycling trip had strengthened her. We were soon joined by Jim’s daughter Katy with his grand-daughter Cariad on her bike seat, accompanied by Katy’s husband Daniel, who had run along beside them in training for the Brighton Marathon. I marvelled at this 12 mile feat until I was disillusioned by Katy explaining that they lived in Worthing – 2 miles away, not Brighton, as does Jim’s other daughter with a grand-daughter about the same age. We 14 tucked into all the shared goodies, pears from Leon’s trees, flapjacks from Katy, spicy olives, my Russian beetroot & walnut salad, Jim’s delicious home-grown potatoes, Leon’s home-made herby bread, but where were Ian & Sue, with the promised games? No-one could contact them & we all hoped no disaster had struck at the departure time, as seemed to happen so often to our poor ill-fated secretary.
Fred & Mick explored the playgrounds & came back delighted with the amenities – pony rides, paddling pool, bouncy castles, pitch & putt, miniature railway, rifle range, tractor rides & boats for hire to explore the lake. Joyce, Jim & Leon took to the water & honed their rowing skills among the coots, swans & furry cygnets. While Katy & Cariad took the “unique” Diddly’s Train [only 1 in the UK says the website] [“a travesty of a train” said our Fred on his facebook page] around the lake, making some fine photo opportunities for all as they waved in delight at seeing grand-dad Jim & our assembled group on the grassy knoll overlooking the track & lake. Then the train stopped & the smiles became a bit wary & worried, but soon, all was fixed & train went merrily tooting on its way with its load of waving, happy children.
Finally Ian & Sue arrived with their deckchairs, hamper & the games box. Sue had been under the misapprehension that the start was 1pm, when it was noon, & Ian drove to the far end of Worthing before remembering that Lancing was the near end, hence they were an hour and a half late & we’d all finished our lunches. Mick and Roger began a long game of chess with the large pieces from the box. Mick was our chess champ this year. Maybe next year we’ll have a chance of a few more entries. We should have had a toast to absent friends, but delighted to catch up with Jo Clinton & Joyce Moore, whom we don’t often see, so that was excellent and so glad they could both make it.
There was still a bit of summer holidaying to do for some of us, so we split up for the return trips & my group cycled; led by Roger, Suzanne, Jim, Mick & me. Although we had a tailwind, I still have a poor leg & took the train at Southwick back to Brighton with Jim. It was my longest ride for 2 months as have seroma from muscle bruising after car smashed into me on NCN 82 at high noon on fateful Black Monday. Mick managed to arrive home before me, but I managed to see Fred already installed in his favourite café on Sydney St in the heart of our North Laine, sitting in the sunshine, which had at last arrived for Bank Holiday Monday.
Thanks to Suzanne for organising a summer social in a local but unfamiliar setting, with appeal to all & access for our non-cycling, or lesser cycling, or ex-cycling Clarionettes.