In a recent address to COP26, The Queen, also The Supreme Governor* of the Church of England, took time to remind us that, “nobody lives for ever.” Windmiller’s, are mostly in their 60’s and 70’s and ride 30 miles or more each week around the beautiful lanes of East Anglia. Each week they spend an extended lunchtime in the pub with their friends. I know none of them takes this good fortune for granted. That would be ridiculous. A memorial ride for Vernon then serves to remind us of a valued, founder member of the club and of our own good luck in being able to carry on the tradition.
We started at the Pig and Abbot in Abington Pigotts with tea, coffee and most importantly on this cold, windy day, biscuits.
The first group to set off had to chase Maurice down the road. I remember them being Sandra, Alan, Geoff, Deborah, Jenni. Mercifully Andrew was in a more relaxed mood with the second group, Rod, Tom, Howard, Nigel, Victor, Charles and me. Howard and I got lost during the first half. I admit we were chatting and not paying much attention. It wasn’t Andrew’s fault; he was following the prescribed route and we weren’t. Still, I was in good hands with Howard, and we caught up just before coffee at Waresley Park Garden Centre after an exhausting pedal into the wind.
The way I remember it, after coffee, the cycling was easy. The wind was behind us and the weather was slowly improving.
Vernon’s wife Moria and one of his sons (Giles) as well as family friends we already at the pub to greet the returning Windmillers
Ken, Brian and Hazel entered into the current fashion for saving energy, by missing the cycling and going straight to the pub. Graham missed out due to a pulled muscle, we wish him a speedy recovery. After due consideration it was decided that Lawrence and Simon (Oughton) also had good enough excuses for absence. Our best wishes go out to them.
Andrew made a moving speech recalling Vernon’s time with the club. In Windmill tradition, nobody gets off lightly in these retellings. The involuntary dismounts, the bikes scooped from the top of the car by height barriers, the crashes, the punchers. Rest assured they are all being recorded for when its your turn. I suppose they will say of me, we don’t where he is, but don’t worry, he won’t know either.
Moria was presented with Vernon’s Windmiller of the year award which had been delayed by the pandemic and with a beautiful portrait of Vernon looking relaxed after a good summer ride. This was a great choice by Maurice and just the way we remember years of cycling with Vernon.
Myself, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Vernon is, gentleman. He was unfailingly kind and generous to me. I also hope I might emulate his example. His zest for life, where he kept on golfing and cycling even in his late seventies and facing a terminal illness, also the way he approached the end of his life, with stoicism, dignity, and good humour.
So here’s to club members that contribute to the smooth running of the club, or to its entertainment value or to those who simply form the steady bedrock of our meeting week-in week-out. Maurice and Andrew are thanked once again for their efforts at the core of things.
*The Bible explicitly identifies as Head of the Church as being Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:23), so that position isn’t available.