THE OPEN ROAD - Lovely day, Open Golf at Sandwich, but no money, solution – bike into back of car, drive to Sandwich with wife, park at riverside, off-load bike, send wife shopping. Cycle along footpath partially following river which leads to sea. Arrive at point where footpath crosses the Royal St. George Golf Course. Footpath guarded by police constable. Constable insists on escorting one across Course to seaside road and seeing one off premises. Sit on roadside verge, can of beer, watch some golf and have a doze. Tide is turning. Walk out to water’s edge. Follow tide in, gathering cockles as they rise from sand to greet sea. Quick swim when tide high enough. Watch a bit more golf, another beer, but time getting on. Decide to use Sandwich Bay Estate roads to get back. A nice pint in The Crispin by the toll bridge, picked up by wife, cockles for supper. A day like that or a road race – Wimsett’s wobblers on yer bikes.
BIKING TO BOULOGNE. Motley crew of ten cyclists assemble at Eastern Docks, no sign of lycra or helmets, and embark for Calais. Breakfast at Yvettes on Place D’armes of croque m’sieur (posh cheese on toast) and pernod. Scenic ramble to Ardres, forest, canals etc., and back to Wissant including all the cafés. Decide against climbing Cap Gris, Cap Nez (been there) and have a few beers instead. Amble on to Ambleteuse and a couple of beers before wandering on to Wimereux. Main stop of day, get it right. Swim first before it becomes dangerous with too much booze, then lunch of moules frites washed down with copious carafés. Climb back to coast road for descent to Boulogne. Minor disaster on descent – clownish colleague knocks me flying and I have to limp last kilometre to Hengist. Arrive on car deck to find nine bikes but no bodies. Finally manage to stagger and crawl alone up to passenger deck. About to moan at colleagues and order beer when some idiot announces ‘Point Alpha’ (15 minutes to dock) and have to start climbing down again. Arrive at Folkestone. Colleagues disappear again so have to limp alone to pub, where, a little later, I forgive everyone after all. Total distance covered about 50k, time 10 hours. Must do it properly next time, take it seriously, dress up in all the fancy gear, make a race of it, and spoil the fun.
GIVING UP GOLF - The first tee at Sene Valley Golf Club and I’ve sliced badly again. I gaze out across Hythe to Dungeness, the sun glinting off St. Mary’s Bay, and I wonder. Just manage to beat 90 for the round, but other than finding a few blackberries I’m not happy. The week before, taking advantage of spring low tides, I was driven to Sene Valley and out to Greatstone. A nice bay of cockles on the incoming tide, a few pints at the New Romney Tavern, then, on the way home, found some mushrooms in Donkey Street. The following day on the first tee at Kingsdown and this time I hook. Sunlit sea below me, Deal to the left, ferries off Dover to the right, and I wonder again. Beat 90 (just) but no blackberries and not happy. The week before I was driven to Kingsdown but dropped with prawn net at the base of the cliffs below the Golf Club. A few happy hours in the sea and rock pools, and I wander along the beach with a nice bag of prawns to The Rising Sun pub, where I happily drink beer, waiting for my lift. Drinking and playing dominoes with guests from Heathrow in The Marquis that night (those were the days my friend, tra la, tra la) everyone is moaning. Even on shift work, able to play weekdays all over the South East, all our handicaps are still ridiculous. So we drink more beer and try to win some money. Not easy at only 2p a point. That night I have a dream. A dream from youth, where I seem to spend every summer day on the beach and every other moment in the Temperance Billiard Hall drinking Bovril. It’s an omen. So I pack up golf (I hated it in the winter anyway), join a snooker club, and add winkles to the free seafood from Abbots Cliff or Ramsgate Bay!