Monday, 30 April 2012

Eton, eating and cycling

The man walking away questioned who we were. And who is he anyway?
What? Sunday is here again? Yes - more rain - nice one universe. Anyhoo jumped out of bed, shower, scrambled egg, tucked the gut into some lycra and lubed up my chain. Oh and my new GPS was fixed on to my bike too.  

I was the navigator for the day so I just turned on the GPS typed in Eton and followed it straight to the M4 - maybe you can't rely on it too much. My biking partner, Mari, told me she didn't want to go onto major roads especially the A40. Anyway I ignored that and within five minutes we were pulling along the A40 past Kings Cross. Mari shook her head silently but still had a smile. 

Once we had passed through the heart of London we were well on our way to Eton. The route was mainly cycle paths, which were true English style - a painted green line with many cars parked in the way. A similar challenge was upon us again - to get out of the M25 as quickly as possible, a necessity if you don't want to spring for a train fare.  

And then we saw the planes of Heathrow. 

"Hey that is the third London airport we have cycled past in as many months." 

"Keep cycling - only 30miles". For once Mari had no need to stop for a dried fig because she would only get cold and we had a lunch date in Eton at 12. 

We pulled up in Eton under the shadow of Windsor Castle for 11:57 with some last minute guidance from Fred. What a planning, navigation legend I was turning out to be, double pat on back for me.  

Hazel and Fred are the couple we went to visit. Hazel had sent a text earlier with a message saying 'Life is daring adventure or nothing'. Hazel is the 'dame' (only Eton) at the Cotton House at the school and Fred is a chemistry technician for the science department. They cooked a lovely fish dinner and showed us photos and told stories of their cycling adventures in Cambodia, China and a South American country beginning with B. I was very excited by the choice of chutney. I picked mango, the only one I know. Should I have been more adventurous and gone for another flavour? Pretty sure it doesn't matter to anyone. 

We were lucky enough to meet another couple - Karen and Nigel - from the States who are going to be back in Los Angeles for when we are get there. They invited us to stay when we get there - it's all coming together. 

Fred and Hazel showed us around the house and school. It reminded me of Hazelrigg Rutland Halls at Loughborough university - where I studied - single rooms, catered halls and box files. These kids have it good but they work bloody hard for it. We met a student who was studying for his A levels and was worried what he would do with his upcoming gap year because his Uni application didn't go to plan. I said enjoy it, I could tell he was think, 'Why didn't anyone suggest that before?' 

We met one boy's parents who invited us to come along on a charity 60 mile bike ride in Dartmoor. They are raising money for a spinal injuries charity to remember Horatio Chapple who was killed by a polar bear in a tragic accident on an artic expedition at the age of 17. Fancy joining us? Horatio Chapple Memorial Trust

Obviously this biking stuff is like a virus - a good one. You meet loads of people who offer you opportunities and you must take them. Bodes well for the big trip.

Thanks Fred and Hazel for a great day and a taster of the year to come.

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