The Strange Case of the Missing Cyclist
Joyce and I caught the 9.48 from Brighton to Havant, with Roger joining at Hove. On the journey the conversation ranged impressively from the Council’s committee system to historical novels, history of science, whether we are the same person as our younger selves, the Buddhist view of the self, belief in life after death, and many other things besides that I have forgotten. We also learned that Joyce’s daughter had been arrested the previous day opposing an impromptu EDL march, but released without charge several hours later. Roger explained that he had arranged an especially extended train journey purely to allow all these things to be discussed!
At Havant, there were Union Jacks all over the place – this being the diamond jubilee of some overprivileged old parasite – and Prince Charles himself was on hand to greet us, although I did notice that “he” was wearing a rather fetching miniskirt. We waited for the later train, but no Clarionette alighted. We had had apologies from Leon (who has just had his operation – get well soon Leon!), Suzanne (still marking exam papers) and Angela (“some text missing”) and, given the weather forecast, we were not expecting many (although Roger reported that sunshine was forecast just in the region of Hayling Island!) But Ian had said he was coming (by car) – where was he? I had a look at the car park but he wasn’t there. Eventually we three set off along the “Hayling Billy” path, the route of the old branch line from Havant Station to Hayling. The rain did not come, and there were even patches of blue sky; it was, however, rather windy.
On the way, Roger got a missed call from Ian but when he tried to call back, Ian’s phone was switched off. Joyce rang Sue to check whether Ian had left for the ride (he had). Eventually Sue must have got worried and called the police, as Joyce was contacted by them to find out if he’d turned up. Several further phone calls ensued – some involving Ian’s daughter, Chloe – but no Ian appeared. We assumed his car had broken down or he was stuck in traffic.
When we reached Langstone Quay, where the bridge to the island starts, Joyce and I waited while Roger went back to the station to look for Ian. We noticed a bench dedicated to a young man who had died in 2010 at the age of 30; a bunch of flowers had been left there with the message “I know you will be at the family barbecue today …” In view of our conversation on the train, this seemed quite ironic.
Roger returned with no Ian. We rode on, over the bridge and down the Billy path. (This was the opposite direction to our last Hayling ride).
We saw windsurfers, and, at the south end of the island there were big houses and more flags, and an unlikely-looking Regency terrace to which Roger drew our attention.
We had a look at the “pleasure beach”, and saw lots of sailing boats taking advantage of the wind.
On the way northwards to the “Maypole” pub, Joyce had another call from Chloe to say that Ian was waiting for us at the pub – and indeed he was. (Ian tells his side of the story in a separate note below).
Lunches were generous and timely. Having exhausted the more intense and profound topics of conversation on the train, after hearing Ian’s story we talked instead about photos of rides, and agreed to open a new “Pro” Flickr account for the Clarion to get round recent problems with “disappearing” photos. (Apologies to other officers who were not there, but we felt we had a quorum and it was not particularly controversial).
The return to Langstone Bridge took us as near as possible to the east side of the island, but no roads actually go right to the sea. We said goodbye to Ian and then made for Emsworth, where we had tea at the Flintstones Tearoom. There is a large mill pond here (complete with full complement of resident swans, ducks and gulls) which was part of an old tide mill. (Why is the phrase “tide mill” always preceded by the word “old”? Seems like a very modern idea to me).
Thanks Roger for a lovely ride, and thanks to Planet Earth for arranging nice weather just for us. Those who didn’t come – well, you don’t know what you missed. Oh, well, actually, you do now.
It wasn’t, pace Jim, the dog that didn’t bark in the night but the phone that wasn’t on in the morning. What Holmes would have made of it is anyone’s guess. This is what happened. I arrived at the Havant station car park with more than half an hour spare — but discovered that the parking ticket machines only took credit or debit cards — not something I usually bring on cycle rides, and anyway who’s ever heard of paying ?2 (the Sunday parking fee) with a card? The station itself was no help — seemed deserted by humankind, so I left the car park hoping to find somewhere fairly nearby where I could park without risking being clamped and fined. No luck. Then I hit on what I thought at the time was a brilliant idea
There’s only one way to get onto (or off) Hayling island — a very long bridge. If I could find somewhere to park near it I could join the ride there. I managed the first bit OK and then waited for quite a while at the southern end of the bridge. I tried to phone Roger twice but when it went to recorded messages I came to the (erroneous) conclusion that either the telefonino was switched off which suggested that they’d already left the station and started the ride.
When no herd of Clarionettes came over the bridge after twenty minutes or so I then concluded (wrongly again) that I had not been quick enough finding a parking place near the bridge and they had already gone of down the “Billy Railway” trail — which is one of the only two bits I remembered from Roger’s ride description. So, after debating whether to just call it a day and go home, and deciding against that, I set off down the trail myself — believing the Clarion group were miles ahead of me. As usual I turned my mobile off. Reaching the bottom end of the island without finding them I had a look at my OS map to see if I could locate the other thing I thought I remembered (not 100% sure) the pub chosen for the lunch stop. Couldn’t find the name — but there was one likely pub marked with a little blue tankard some distance up the main road back to Havant. It turned out to be the Maypole. No one there — perhaps still exploring a much longer route than the one I’d taken. So, equipping myself with a half of bitter I sat outside to wait.
After some time had passed I decided to try Roger again —turned the phone on — got a text message asking me to phone home urgently — and discovered I’d spread alarm (and even a modicum of despondency) far and wide. Sussex and Hampshire police were looking out for me as a missing person after Joyce had phoned home to see if I’d set out for Havant. So everyone was worried — not least Sue and Chloe. I’m really sorry about that. My C20 attitude to mobile phones — only to be switched on when about to make a call or expecting to receive one is partly to blame — but why have parking ticket machines that only take credit cards? Still, as Jim says, we were very lucky with the weather — sunny for most of the time and no rain at all. Let’s hope its fine on Bloomsday!