Secretary’s Report for 2015

Presented to the AGM, 14 March 2016

We couldn’t have had a sunnier day for our New Year ride on 2 January. We formed a sizeable group at Carats Café.  A really good start to the year!   But the first “real” ride on 11 January to check out the new Egrets way did not go off quite so well.  As Amanda reported, it was “most certainly a ride of two halves” with “a howling icy blast” to contend with in the later stages. Meanwhile, we had had our AGM.  The minutes have been circulated but it is worth in this context mentioning two decisions that affect this year’s meeting.  Finding that we now longer needed, by national rule, to hold our AGM quite so early, we changed our own rule to enable it to take place any time up to the end of March.  We also decided to facilitate the task of collecting subs by making the decision a year in advance, so at this year’s meeting we will need to fix the fee for 2017.

There was a good turnout also for the other January ride with the London Clarion which took the participants to Greenwich and London Bridge.  Sally, out with Brighton Clarion for the first time, wrote the report.  No one offered a ride for the first date in February, which was probably just as well given the weather that day.  Rides now started to be definitely led by the “usual suspects” with   Anne and Mick who had already led a ride in January taking on two successive ones in February and March, while Jim who had organised our end of the London ride leading the other ride in March. Yet there was no shortage of “takers” for our rides. Anne and Mick, for example, had 15 on their Hassocks to Poynings ride in March.

When we reached April I was tempted to try my hand at a bit of Canterbury Tales pastiche – only for Jim to point out that a much better effort had been made back in 2009. It appeared in the 5 May newsletter along with other poems by members and later in the year we had another one from Leon. Chris announced an “Easter Bonnet Ride” and after promising “Quiet lanes, rural pubs, neo-nazis and an old workhouse” went on to invite everyone to “celebrate Easter by dressing up (optional) –an Easter bonnet, fancydress, and Easter egg, your plus fours and tweed, or whatever.”  It seemed to have worked because no fewer than 18 turned up, though, as Jim reported “although nobody wore a bonnet, Chris’s bowler hat was very impressive, and Helen had brought daffodils, and Easter treats to hand out at teatime. “It was on this ride that Joyce had a nasty encounter with the wing mirror of a car whose driver didn’t even bother to stop.  Fortunately, she got away with a bruised arm – and being shaken up by the experience.  But not the sort of thing you expect, let alone want, to happen on a ride.

Memory is a strange thing.   I was convinced before I started to trawl the newsletters that I had made it clear from the very beginning of the year that I wasn’t “back-stopping” or, after a while, coming out on rides, because my cataract problem had become so bad that I didn’t feel confident enough to ride in a group.  In fact in January I simply pleaded other commitments – which was true enough – and in February though I did mention that I was waiting to be summoned to the eye hospital for surgery I didn’t make the full extent of why I wasn’t available clear.  It actually wasn’t until the    beginning of April that I came completely clean about it.

Also in April we had lively reports of the Easter Meet at Llangollen from Mick and Anne.  Six people – a record I think – from our section attended: Bob Anne, David, Fred. Mick and Terri.  Mick’s account concentrated on energetic achievements in the two club rides, the Horseshoe Pass and the 8 mile time trial which turned into a hill climb of less than half that distance.  Anne told us about the less fearsome aspect of the Meet including the dinner attended by – among others – an allegedly well-behaved dog who, sadly, failed to be awarded a prize. Mick did a little better winning a mug in the raffle.

At the end of April I had some problems with my old computer – now replaced.  Fortunately Jim was able to get a mini-version of the newsletter out with all the vital info. The first ride in May, led by Helen, featured a return visit to Oldlands Mill. The next ride continued the high turnouts with 18 turning up. Among much else Anne reported on the damage done to David’s bike by a pothole and a close shave with a “white van man’” Bad weather forced Julian to cancel the final May ride. For the first ride in June Leon had suggested a “Pier to Pier” ride from Brighton to Worthing but was unable to take it on himself and Amanda came to the rescue – not for the first time.  Also in June we had as well as the usual “last ride” reports Mick’s account of a ride over the St Gotthard Pass and Joyce and Leon’s report of the “Dieppe Raid” together with one from Bob on the same subject.

The first ride in July was frustrating for me.  One of my eyes had been done, so I could see where I was going again, and I set off the meet everyone at the Velo Café- only to have my transmission seize up completely after about a mile.  As Julian reported the rest of the ride went well in spite of high winds and some rain.  Similar inclement weather returned for the second ride that month which ended in Hastings. As Jim reported, “Hastings was awash with pirates, many of them superbly kitted out with bandannas, pirate hats, feathers, swords, old-fashioned pistols, and even a peg-leg. Apparently the idea is to break the record for the number of pirates gathered together in one place; for several years there has been competition between Hastings and Penzance for this honour.”  You certainly live on learn on a Clarion ride! It was around that time we also had Anne’s Report on a “Swiss Holiday Trip to UCI & Velo Rte 1-Andermatt/Brig.”

Early in August Julian recycled  – in all senses –  the Dell Quay ride which bad weather had forced him to cancel earlier in the year.  It went very well in spite of some confusion at the Crown and Anchor over “prawn and salmon salads” as Corinne reported.  There seems to have been more luck in September at The Inn on the Green, where, in Anne’s words, “Food was fine & varied, whitebait, roasts, child roasts [from local pigs], salad nicoise, ham & eggs, haddock & chips, apple crumble, all arrived promptly & were enjoyed.”

I finally managed to lead a ride on 4 October. My idea was to repeat our visit to the Chiddlingly Festival in 2008.  Unfortunately it turned out that the various attractions and stalls we had sampled on our first visit years before  were not, in 2015 at least,  available on the final Sunday of the festival. But the Bells proved a good substitute and afterwards we called at one of the outlying “art houses” of the festival where Tessa was exhibiting.  Tessa was about concerned about cake running out and she phoned me to suggest we get a move on if we didn’t want to miss it. We took advantage of the presence of cards for sale to send a “get well soon” one to Helen, which, as she told us in the newsletter which followed, cheered her greatly.  I was keen to take part in Julian’s and Jim’s Worth Way ride but was thwarted again when my chain got jammed and it took too long to hold up the rest of the company to get it unjammed. Still I did get to have another look at Worth church which made it worthwhile nevertheless.  But I missed out on Gullege (or Gulledge – there seems to be  some uncertainty about the correct spelling) House, the Bluebell Railway and other delights of the ride.

David’s Shoreham to Littlehampton ride at the beginning of November was praised by Julian for being “a ride with no ‘undulations.’”  Julian also reported the ride with Gosport Clarion which I was particularly sorry to miss.  Julian seems to have caught my “seized up gears” complaint on this ride but it all turned out very well in the end.  Being conservative in everything except politics I had hoped to be able to lead the Berwick circular which we have been doing as the last ride of the year since 2004 – more or less.  Unfortunately, maintenance on the Coastway East rail line put this out of the question.  Instead we did a ride which featured in the words of   Angela’s report “Twineham and Wineham, (what a lovely rhyming couple)” and – I think for the second time in 2015 – the Royal Oak for lunch. I seemed to have shocked my companions by suggesting that some of the more luxurious-looking places we passed might be the retreats of retired drug dealers; but, after all,  the poor things have to live somewhere!  And when you think about how long  large-scale illegal importation has been going on and how few of the “top” people involved get caught, there must be quite a few around.  And so we came to the final event of the Brighton and Hove Clarion year – the Christmas lunch which Angela had organised at the Café Rouge. All twelve of us had a very good time and Anne had some nice glittery brooches to distribute.

Throughout the year we had sightings of interesting wild –and not so wild – life.  In late January, for example, Sally reported that in  South Norwood Country Park “the lake was dotted with goldeneye ducks and drakes, coots and moorhens, and a big white Aylesbury, who reminded Joan of her childhood duck Kate, memorable for regularly laying double-yolked eggs,” while on the last ride of the year in December Angela recalled that” Julian identified the birdsong of a green woodpecker, robins and possibly a song thrush, who were also ‘in good voice’.”  Other creatures great and small made at least fleeting appearances on many of the rides in between.

And so we came to the end of another year – generally a very successful one though a bit frustrating for me at times.  In 2014 we had 15 different members involved in leading rides.  By my count it was slightly fewer – 13 – in 2015.  Let’s hope there are even more ride leaders in 2016.  Meanwhile, it was nice to hear from our friend Peter Roscoe of Bury Clarion from time to time through the year. Thanks to Julian for continuing with the onerous task of treasurer. Thanks to Roger who kept the newsletters going while I was away at various times during the year and to Fred – and Jim – for keeping the website up to date and to Jim for saving the situation when I had computer problems. Thanks also to everyone who led a ride – especially to Jim, Anne and Mick who, as usual, did much more than their fair shares. Finally, thanks to all who wrote  reports, or contributed to the newsletter discussions during the year.

Ian Bullock

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