That was the year that was
It’s over, let it go
It started way up above par
Finished way below
Remember this opening song by Millicent Martin for David Frost’s weekly satirical programme? (Apologies, BBC, for substituting Year for Week). It seems to sum up what we have endured in 2020.
But it did start well, didn’t it? Except for Brian who had two punctures, one in each wheel, on the first ride on 2nd January. There was also speculation that day as to what might lie in the year ahead – would Deborah buy some mudguards, would Andrew stop banging on about Schwalbe Marathons? Harmless stuff like that but no mention of what would hit the world later that month when the Corona virus started to spread in China, Italy and Austrian ski resorts. On 6th January, Rod had a nasty fall on a slippery road resulting in a cracked helmet and a bent bike but Sandra came to his rescue in her van and scooped him up. He was a bit bruised but luckily nothing else was broken. Brian’s birthday was celebrated on the 24th at The Black Bull in Balsham and on the 30th nine Windmillers inspected Nigel’s immaculate motorbike workshop and stuffed themselves silly on Sue’s buttered tea loaf and shortbread.
On 6th February we had a great turnout, as above, for a ride to Wimpole on a beautiful day. But it wasn’t long afterwards that storms Ciara and Dennis resulted in cancelled rides and the formation of the Windmill Dining Club to ensure we kept our local publicans happy.
It remained very wet, which was just a precursor of the real storm that was about to hit us hard, the dreaded Corona virus. By 12th March the virus was spreading rapidly, people were dying, stock markets were crashing, unemployment was rising, Andrew was self-isolating after an abandoned ski trip to Italy, and all this when we were meant to be celebrating Maurice’s birthday! But we carried on, not really knowing what was in store, and enjoyed a lovely Springwatch ride with Sandra on 16th March when her eagle eye spotted a barn owl, a large herd of deer including some Albinos and, God forbid, a strange looking hi-viz clad person ahead of us standing on a bank and coughing furiously. It turned out to be Andrew taking some exercise during his self isolation and so we gave him a wide berth.
And then on 19th March the bombshell hit us. No more rides! Hibernation time for The Windmill Club! Deaths galore! Panic buying! The end is nigh! Suddenly, we had to adapt, quickly, if we were to remain sane. Owing to the club being affiliated to Cycling UK, the first thing was to stop organising group rides. But exercise outdoors was allowed and so Windmillers continued to ride individually and occasionally we bumped into each other. This happened with increasing frequency which led to the idea of creating a circuit and inviting members to join the circuit near to where they lived, some going clockwise and some anti-clockwise. This was quite legitimate under the Government’s rules and thus heralded what became known as CAC rides which continue to this day. The first one took place on 1 April and resulted in £80 being raised for the charities we support and a stop for refreshments at the end of Maurice’s long driveway, plus the recording of times for the circuit, suitably judged by Howard. The fastest time was set by Graham who did the circuit in 1 hour 49 minutes and 15 seconds.
The Windmill Club did indeed go into hibernation. The WhatsApp group name was changed to Cycle Mates and it was soon swamped with Corona virus jokes and stories like this:
And this from yours truly to encourage members to wash their hands:
Blogs also stopped as we had to show that we were obeying all the rules but unofficial CAC rides took off big time and money poured into the charity box which was hosted at various places throughout April – £93 on the 9th, when Graham was first again, £95 on the 16th, £153 on the 23rd and £85 on the 30th, making a grand total of £984 by the end of April.
During April, Brian started a wonderful series of Windmillers of the Day which included Andrew, Vernon, Sandra, Charles, Keith, Deborah, Chris, John, Lawrence, Ken, Howard, Roger, Geoff, Tom, Graham, Simon, Rod, Nigel, myself and Maurice, before he ran out of photographs from previous blogs. Finally, Brian was created Windmiller of the Day by Andrew. Here’s the gang:
May rides continued in CAC style, with the magnificent sum of £170 being raised on 14 May, when toy windmills were also distributed for attachment to bikes so that Windmillers could be recognised amongst the hoards of other cyclists on the roads. On 26 May, Graham decided to climb the hills around Ickleton in one day enough times to at least equal the 1,600 metres he would have climbed had he been allowed to climb Mont Ventoux that day. In the event he climbed the equivlent of a trip from the seaside to Avoriaz at 1,810 metres! Well done, Graham.
June saw the easing of restrictions at long last and groups of 6 were allowed to cycle together. The blog re-emerged on 1st June when Simon described a rock hard off road route devised by Andrew after a month of no rain which shook 6 Windmillers and their bikes to bits, including Rod falling off in the last half mile, luckily only slightly battered. By 25 June, it was really blazing as 19 Windmillers descended on Wimpole Hall for coffee, all at different times and socially distanced of course.
June also saw the creation by Brian of an easier to remember URL for the blog- http://www.thewindmillclub.org . Is this the reason for a massive increase in visitors and views from many more countries this year?
July started with a memorial ride for Victor’s wife, Rose, who sadly passed away a few weeks back. This created an opportunity to have a special fund raising day resulting in a club record of £440 which Maurice proposed topping up to £500 from club funds and making a donation to Marie Curie Cancer Care. It was then topped up by a further £100 from Victor making a grand sum of £600. The day was notable also for a summer footwear parade, Charles winning narrowly in his fancy shoes and socks from Suzanne in her shocking pink / rich plum trainers.
Thoughts of croissants, coffee and Calvados started on Rod’s birthday ride on 10 July as three of the French contingent, Andrew, Simon and I, had a warm up ride with 9 other Windmillers before a socially distanced lunch at The Golden Fleece in Braughing. But Andrew and Simon couldn’t resist really getting in the mood:
So it was early on 13 July that Andrew, Simon, Lawrence and I departed in 2 cars plus bikes for Newhaven, having had to make last minute changes to our itinerary due to our ferry to St Malo being cancelled. But all went well, we had good weather throughout and stayed and ate at some nice places, demolishing platters of seafood at every opportunity. Andrew was our guide for the Normandy beach tour and we also stopped to pay our respects at the memorial to our Windmill friend Kell Ryan, who was well known in the area.
The fine weather continued throughout July and into August when rides were still allowed in groups of up to six people, making it seem almost like the old days and being able to go further afield too, to places like West Stow, Long Melford and Lavenham. Rain and thunderstorms at last arrived to water the garden, and Windmillers, but that didn’t stop Windmillers from venturing out. The rain is at least warm in August.
September got off to a bad start on the 3rd for Andrew having had a puncture and a hornet attack him on the same day whilst on a ride around Stevenage. But the highlight of the day was the arrival at The Rising Sun in Halls Green of Vernon and his wife Moira for lunch, Vernon having introduced as to The Rising Sun a few years back. He was in good form but not fit enough for a ride. He had however been playing a mean round of golf in previous weeks, to which I can testify.
With the holiday period over, rides got going with a vengeance during the remainder of September. On the 10th, after a pleasant ride from the hamlet of Fuller Street, down to Heyford Basin and Maldon, Mike suddenly lurched to his feet during lunch with a swelling the size of a rugby ball in one of his legs. 999 or rush him immediately to hospital in Chelmsford? The latter course of action was considered to be much quicker given the pressure on the NHS and Deborah offered to do just that. He was soon attended to and discharged later that day, just as well as he was on a climbing expedition in France the following week!
Valentines’ Day re-emerged 7 months late on 14th September when Deborah jumped off her bike on a warm sunny evening and dived into a field of glorious wild flowers.
A week later it was Maurice’s turn to pick flowers for Lynn but some Windmillers got a bit worried about this show of affection for me and vice versa:
What started as a bad month for Andrew ended as one too when he developed a bad case of food poisoning which laid him low for a couple of weeks. He reported having lost 10 pounds quite quickly which, as Simon quipped, was quite a lot of money for a Scotsman to lose! So we missed his cheerful company whilst a wet and stormy end to September heralded a more restrictive October, following much the same pattern as earlier in the year. Eureka moment! Storms = surge in cases of corona virus. Banish storms! Banish the virus! Your views, please, Prof Simon.
The really sad news at the end of September was that our good friend and colleague Vernon Gamon died on the 27th, less than a month after joining us for lunch at The Rising Sun and after a long and courageous battle with liver cancer. He was upbeat and stoic right to the end, even to the extent of buying himself a new car in recent weeks. Ken and I were proud to represent The Windmill Club and the Gog Magog Golf Club at his funeral on 12th October at a natural burial site in deepest Leicestershire.
Vernon never forgave me for padlocking my bike to his in Steeple Bumpstead on my first outing with The Windmill Club and forgetting to bring the key. ‘What a plonker’, I heard him say. ‘Whoever invited this nutcase?’
Simon’s October got off to a bad start on the 1st with a major error of route on the return leg of Ken’s ride to Graffham Water when he opted to explore the dual carriageway of the A1 north of Buckden followed by a zig zag route to avoid the new A14 whilst navigating back to base at The White Swan at Conington, by which time lunch was over. He’s been singing the 1961 Dion hit They call me the wanderer ever since. To make matters worse his car would not start but a helpful lady produced some jump leads which did the trick.
Covid-19 cases started to rise again by mid-October which meant The Windmill Club had to get creative again to cope with the popularity of our rides. So on the 15th Geoff and Brian came up with the idea of 3 groups of 6, one of which would use The Three Hills at Bartlow as their base whilst the other two used The Black Bull at Balsham, but all doing the same route in different directions. This worked out well except for a few unrelated hiccups such as Rod having a glancing blow collision with a big lorry on the way to the start and Lawrence having an involuntary dismount at a busy road junction. It also rained hard on one group just as they recognised the lone figure of John Bagrie heading in the opposite direction. It was great to see John again and to have him join us for lunch.
Deborah very kindly provided vast quantities of mushrooms and apples on the 19th on a ride when Maurice was determined to show off on his e-bike leaving others trailing behind who then took a different route, but all met up eventually at The Red Cow and enjoyed a pint outside. On the 22nd there were punctures galore, Martin’s being particularly time consuming and expensive to repair but not as expensive as Maurice’s puncture on his car.
Lockdown recommenced on 2 November which meant having to cancel Vernon’s memorial ride scheduled for the 5th, which will now be held at a future date. Instead, CAC rides came to the rescue with Windmillers allowed to cycle singly or in pairs. And the lovely early November weather made it seem more bearable, although we felt sorry for the farmers who had no market for pumpkins this year:
Autumnwatch rides were a treat for the naturists, sorry naturalists, amongst us, the highlight being 10 red kites seen circling together by Jenni and Deborah in Anstey on 20 November. Large herds of deer were also spotted amongst the splendid autumn colours:
But by the end of November it was pretty cold, wet, murky and muddy. Brian had a bad day on the 19th having to endure wet weather, a puncture and a bad back all at the same time and the conditions had a strange effect on Simon who, cycling alone at the time, decided to compose the first of an anthology of poems about pigeons. Here it is which could perhaps be set to music and sung in a punk style:
There were eight pigeons on that wire
In spring they ate all my apple-tree buds
Some birds I ‘ate because they are destructive (and don’t sing)
As a convicted multiple murderer of pigeons
Unrepentant, I will scratch on my cell wall
I ‘ate, the eight fat pigeons I ‘ate
And I don’t care
Keep ’em coming Simon!
In the absence of our traditional Christmas lunch when Maurice announces the distribution of the money we have raised for various charities, 26th November became the focus for this year’s announcement. And what a phenomenal amount we have managed to raise – £4,737 as at 26 November which was generously topped up by Maurice by a further £300 to make a grand total of £5,037. The distribution was as follows:
Marie Curie Cancer Appeal: £500, in memory of Rose Humberstone
Arthur Rank Hospice: £500, in memory of Victor
East Anglia Childrens’ Hospice: £1,000
Eve Cancer Appeal: £1,000
The Samaritans: £1,000, in recognition of the amazing work that Deborah does for this charity
Pets as Therapy: £500, in recognition of the work that Charles and Fiona do for this charity with their dogs
Addenbrookes Charitable Trust: £150
December started very cold, wet and windy as three intrepid Windmillers, Alan, Mike and Graham, found to their cost on 3rd December. Most Windmillers decided wisely to buff their candlesticks instead and check that their Christmas lights were still working.
Flooded roads, low temperatures, mud, murk and punctures were now de rigueur for the rest of December. The 10th marked a striking contrast between the haves and the have nots amongst Windmillers. The haves, including Graham, Mike, Geoff, Deborah and Ken smirked contentedly inside the warmth of Poppy’s Barn as they tucked into their coffees, cakes and, in Deborah’s case, a full English breakfast, whilst the have nots comprising Brian, Lawrence, Simon, Victor and myself were forced to sit outside in the freezing cold and wait ages for their coffee whilst also being told off at regular intervals by the smartly dressed waitress for leaving our bikes and items of clothing in the wrong places. Whipped cream coffee was strangely not on the menu.
The 10th was also notable for punctures of all kinds. Gallant Howard firstly came to the assistance of an Ugley lady (actually, she was rather nice!) whose car had got a puncture but after half an hour of trying with only a can of sealant to do the job, he had to give up and the lady was left calling her son. Subsequent Windmillers offered help too and she said what a nice bunch we were! Then both Victor and Brian had punctures on their return leg home, Victor just managing to get there whilst a near-frozen Brian was whisked up by me and returned home by car.
The Christmas spirit was already flowing at Maurice’s on 14 December when Windmillers appeared at suitably spaced intervals to enjoy mince pies and mulled wine. And yet another puncture happened when Suzanne picked up a difficult to locate thorn which required her chief mechanic Graham to diligently find and repair.
The final ride of the year took place on 17th December on a nice sunny day but still with wet and muddy roads at times. Another £100 was raised which will go into the 2021 pot for distribution.
Thanks galore are due to Maurice and Andrew for all their planning and organisation during the year and to those who hosted the charity box and provided refreshments whilst our CAC rides took place. Thanks also to fellow bloggers Brian, Simon and Graham. But, above all, we should thank every member for participating and being so generous during what has been one of the most challenging of years. We have managed to stay safe and healthy whilst at the same time having fun and raising a substantial amount for our chosen charities. WELL DONE ALL!
And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for – the summary and prizegiving!
The longest distance prize
First prize Graham with an astonishing 13,458km. Second Rod – 3,256 miles. Third Andrew – 3,049 miles. Fourth Brian – 3, 040 miles (beaten by Andrew by just 9 miles)
The puncture prize
One each recorded by Maurice, Andrew, Martin, Deborah, Alan, Roger, Victor and Suzanne
Four recorded by Brian (yes four!) and so the prize goes equally to him and to Martin, who caused the most loss of time and cost on 22nd October – two exploding tubes, one exploding pump and two discharged CO2 cylinders.
The e-bike breakdown prize
When they go wrong, e-bikes are not the easiest of bikes to repair. Maurice’s gave up the ghost on 5 March, Geoff had problems with his gear control and Rod waited several weeks for a wheel repair before finally getting it sorted by a local chap. The prize goes to Rod.
The involuntary dismount prize
Unfortunately, there were several involuntary dismounts involving Rod on 6th January and again on 1st June, Graham on 5th July, Roger and Alan both on 16th July, Lindsay in March, Lawrence on 15th October and Charles on 26th November. The prize goes to Graham for a particularly spectacular fall on a gravelly junction, witnessed only by himself, which put him out of action for a while.
The dodgy bike prize
Bits fell off Simon’s bike on 23rd July, Andrew’s filthy chain again needed mending due to a dodgy link and Lawrence’s rear disc brake needed repairing on a trip to Aldeburgh. Andrew has won it several times in the past and so this year the prize goes to Simon.
The dodgy car prize
Having had a dodgy battery on two occasions, needing jump cables from Andrew in Upper Langley and also from a helpful lady in The White Swan at Conington, there is only one candidate for this prize. It also goes to Simon.
The getting lost prize
Maurice took a wrong turning on 10th September but found a £20 note whilst doing a U-turn, and then got properly lost towards the end of the ride when he and Howard strayed off route, Lindsay got lost on 21st September, Deborah couldn’t even find the start on 1st October having got lost in the wilds of Cambridgeshire, but Simon got lost on 15th June and then again, big time (see above) on 1st October. So the prize goes to Simon. Well done – a hatrick!
The Good Samaritan prize
Sandra came to the rescue of Rod on 6th January, Victor and Brian helped another cyclist on 12th November, Howard came to the aid of a damsel in distress with a puncture in a wheel of her car (see above) but Deborah is the clear winner because of the amazing work she does for The Samaritans (often appearing for a ride with blurry eyes having done a night shift) and for rushing Mike to hospital in Chelmsford on 1st October.
The Mucky Pup prize
This goes to Roger for spoiling his smart new jacket on 13th February, closely followed by Andrew in second place. Roger wins a framed print of this pic:
The Springwatch / Autumnwatch prize
Alan spotted a fine looking stag on 26th October, Ken / Martin spotted a large herd of deer on 5th November (but there were probably countless other sightings not recorded) and Jenni / Deborah witnessed 10 Red Kites circling over Anstey – a fine display. Sandra’s spot of the barn owl in March was awesome but the prize goes to Jenni / Deborah jointly.
The longest ride to the start prize
Graham, Brian, Victor, Deborah, Jenni, Howard, Geoff and Suzanne all have long rides to the start points, unless they use their cars of course. The prize goes to Brian.
The road rage prize
We try to be courteous to motorists at all times but the opposite does not always apply. Andrew had a run-in with a Volvo driver in Long Melford on 6th August and also with an angry lady in Upper Langley who asked him, not very politely, to not park outside her house. Rod also had an incident when riding his e-bike. The prize goes to Andrew who handles such situations very diplomatically.
The dapper dresser prize
No competition this year. Who could compete with Charles with his snazzy stripey socks, fancy shoes and Christmas jumper? The prize goes to Charles.
The poet of the year prize
No competition. The outright winner is Simon.
The Zoom prize
Again, no competition. The winner is Graham who we should thank heartily for setting up many post-ride Zoom meetings throughout the year
Other facts and figures
Prior to lockdown, birthdays were celebrated for Brian, Victor, Martin and Maurice. Thereafter we celebrated Rod’s on 10th July, Deborah’s on 16th July, Howard’s on 23rd July, Charles’s on 6th August and Lawrence’s on 26th November.
Despite the smaller number of blogs this year the number of visitors and views of http://www.thewindmillclub.org more than doubled over 2019
Views 1437 2996
Visitors 617 1312
No. of posts 72 63
Illnesses and ailments
John Bagrie had a hip operation early in the year from which he made a rapid recovery and was soon walking / cycling, including a week’s walking in the Lake District with Ken and Lawrence in early September.
Simon had a hernia operation from which he also recovered quickly, although it was somewhat worrying on one of his first rides to Ware that he reported having one black one and one white one. He’s in the pink now, that’s for sure.
Keith had an operation on his neck which had been giving him trouble for some time. We hope to see him out and about with us soon.
Andrew got stung badly by a hornet on 3rd September and had a nasty bout of food poisoning later that month but recovered well from both.
Mike was rushed to hospital in Chelmsford by Deborah on 10th September with a large leg swelling caused by a pedal bursting a blood vessel. He was released later in the day and was climbing mountains in France the following week.
On this sombre final note, we lost one of best loved members, Vernon Gamon. RIP.
PS. If there are any errors or omissions they are all my fault. Let me know if anthing needs to be put right.