We are told, by those in authority, that it now safe to dine indoors. On this cold, windy day ‘The Club’ was happy enough to comply. The prevailing attitude to authority however remains unchanged. This is probably best summed up by the pub’s name, the ‘Pig and Abbott’.
Unsettling behaviour between authority figures and farm animals is nothing new. For instance David Cameron’s ‘pig-gate’ was just a distant echo of similar accusations levelled at Lyndon Johnson and numerous other authority figures down the centuries. Still we’ll be back soon enough to our favourite pubs like the ‘Fox and Duck’, the ‘Axe and Compass’, even the ‘Fez and Ant’, all in good time.
We split into two groups. One lead by Martin and the other by Maurice. Martin contrived to give the first group a head start by having a late tinker with his chain. Deborah had come with what looked like a child’s bike she had borrowed. Still it stops her tearing away and making us all look bad I suppose.
Excellent turnout considering the weather: Brian, Alan, Geoff, Rod, Charles, Maurice, Ric, Ken, Deborah, Roger, Howard, Graham, Mike, Suzanne, Nigel, Martin and Simon. All this despite the absence of stalwart members; Andrew, Chris, Victor, Jenny and Lawrence.
The ride past through two rather famous villages in Bedfordshire. The first was Wrestlingworth. Here lived the last woman to be publicly hanged in England (so far),1840. She was on her third husband aged 25, but was rather too fond of arsenic, apparently. A person killed using arsenic exudes a very characteristic odour upon decomposition (arsine gas, any chemist can tell you that). Her previous husbands were exhumed and she was held at The Chequers in Wrestlingworth before being hanged outside Bedford Assizes. The whole village went along for the event, so it is said. Of course they say Capital Punishment wouldn’t be as popular now, but I bet you I could still sell tickets. The refreshments franchise would also be worth having.
The other famous village we cycled through is of course, Cockayne Hatley.
In the churchyard there is a fine gravestone of the poet W. E. Henley (1849-1903). He wrote the poem ‘Invictus’ (invincible) now made more famous by the ‘Invictus Games’. Last verse is the most famous,
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
He lost a leg in teenage and was an inspiration to his friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, who invented the Long John Silver character, having been inspired by Henley’s determined, can-do attitude. Actually Henley almost lost his other leg as well, but it was saved by Lister who had just started experimenting with antiseptics (1870). Still it must have hurt a lot, since anaesthetics only came along a bit later when they were famously used on Queen Victoria to help during childbirth.
Henley’s poem was quoted by Churchill ‘We are still masters of our fate. We still are captains of our souls’ during a difficult period in1941. Also by Nelson Mandela on release from Robin Island and by Barack Obama at Mandela’s funeral oration. Also by prisoners of war in Vietnam, writing it using rat droppings. Also in various Nobel Prize addresses. Well you get the general idea. It’s sort of famous and from Cockayne Hartley in Bedfordshire.
Half-way coffee and a cake at Waresley were most welcome, in one of the most efficient of all the coffee stops we use. If only Wimpole would come along and see how it is done.
The Pig and Abbott had supplied coffee and biscuits at the off and again made every effort to make us welcome at the end. Our own space and excellent food and beer. Inside at last! The rain held off (just). The wind steadily increased but we were safely ensconced in the pub before the bad weather settled in.
It was Alan’s birthday and he kindly bought the drinks. He received the customary candle and celebratory singing.
We thank Andrew for the arranging and hope he can grit his teeth and make it out on Monday. Also Maurice who is still providing us varied routes. We thank him. We are all grateful to have got through the last year as an active club, unscathed.
It will only get better from here on in. Won’t it?
It’s not going to be like being released from Robin Island or involve any writing using rat shit, hopefully. No, I’m ‘captain of my soul’ and remain unreasonably optimistic, despite any infirmities.