A taste of Italy, just not as planned.

I did not expect to be riding this week having planned to be in Italy but, having been refused permission to board a flight to Italy at great expense, here I was outside The Red Lion’s Italian restaurant. In Great Sampford. In England.

The expiry date on a UK passport is not the expiry date which is recognised by EU countries. Oh no, that would be too simple. For EU countries the expiry date is ten years from the issue date. You see a ten-year passport must last ten years, ten years exactly. To have an easy time interacting with the EU just try to think like a German. Anything other than ten years would be deviant Anglo-Saxon toying with government rules on and an official document. This might be interesting, even amusing in the arts as witnessed by exports like Mr Bean, Monty Python or the LiveStream of proceedings in the UK parliament. But a passport is not a place for amusing flexibility with rules.

I should add the rest of the world uses the expiry date as printed on the passport. All non-EU countries take the view that the UK government knows best when a UK passport expires, and that it helpfully prints this next to the words ‘expiry date’.

Deborah was disappointed not to be able to cycle on the pedestrian path by the river at Clare. Graham explained that it is ‘verboten’. We compromised in true British fashion by only cycling on it one way.

The route was clockwise via Clare Castle, and we split into two groups for the ride.

Excellent café with quick service, scenic setting and plenty of space.
(also cake)
Odd how flags are often flown from old building but rarely from new ones.

I’ve always been unable to convince my wife that I disappear each Thursday to go cycling. She remains convinced that I only eat cake, dine then return home smelling of beer. Similarly suspicious females ruined my trip into the wilderness around the castle to answer the call of nature and I was forced return to the busy facilities at the café.

Old problem or an ongoing one?
Tomato plants on the line growing from human sewage. Makes a change from delays caused by leaves I suppose.

The toilets contained an amusing sign. Amusing that is as long as the UK government continues to grant rail companies exception to the rules concerning the disposal of human waste.

As the head of the rail union recently said “You quickly learn to turn your back and close your mouth when you’re trackside and a train is passing. As I know first-hand.” He went on to suggest that if the government were treated the same way at work then they might apply the rules with more earnestness, saying, “it is our members, not government ministers, who are regularly sprayed with human sewage while working”. In the UK, trackside workers currently need to be inoculated against hepatitis which might be obtained by contact with raw sewage. The practice was to end in 2017, then in 2020, but it has proved to be more convenient for the government to extend impunity from health and safety regulations for a while longer. Naturally I wonder if the EU would find it so amusing or be so flexible with the rules. It is said that taking trains out of service to modify the toilets would inconvenience people travelling to large cities, like London.

I should add that not all of UK industry is as customer focussed as one might expect. Indeed, upon reading about the problem I find that it is mostly the public’s fault. As proof I offer a quote from Richard Parsons, operations director of the train cleaning system specialists Airquick, who confirms that a retrofitting programme “usually takes longer to achieve than planned” (?). “We have installed toilet retention tank emptying systems for retrofitted stock, only for them not to be used for up to 12 months following commissioning”.

OK I think, park one outside the café at Clare Castle and I will happily oblige.

Apparently, it is hard to fit a large enough tank for a gravity fed, water flush toilet anywhere on a train, so our sympathy and indulgence is requested. I note that the airlines use vacuum flushing for that reason. Still, that is an entirely different industry isn’t it, covered by international, not UK only rules.

One of our oft-photographed windmills showing club members old and new; Maurice, Ken and Howard, then Paul an Ian.

Overall a brilliant ride through a very picturesque and quiet route as planned by Maurice, who also organised our meals at the restaurant. After pleasant exercise and a beer in the warm spring sunshine with the club I felt much happier.

I returned home to my wife who said “I suppose you are going to tell me again that you have been cycling?”

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