Riding home

Another bad sleep with the muggy night and the creaky floorboards of the insomniac directly above me and the characteristic noisy hotel plumbing where you can hear people showering and flushing toilets almost anywhere in the building. There was even an attack of the classic water hammer at around 5.30. At breakfast the guest profile seemed newly diverse, though the little white haired and very old and fragile lady who always sits in the same seat in the restaurant is there and other elderly couples (who have six legs between them as the oracle at Delphi would say) are still here. They address the waitresses as ‘dear’. With a bit of a wobble of my loaded up bike, I left at around 9am and decided to head straight back home so blasted along the motorways back to my front door, 163 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes. Good weather and good progress apart from the M25 as usual.

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There’s more to say but this is all for now.

Here’s the track of the whole trip (woops ignore the bit to Thetford)- not very adventurous in terms of travel, sadly, but I had other priorities this year with the book deadline and maybe moving house within a couple of months.

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Arriving at the Lansdown Grove Hotel Bath

Leaving my little cottage did not go how I expected. I was up early and super organised, everything ready to go onto the bike, my last granola waiting for me to eat. I had forgotten when the ‘check-out’ time would be but guessed 10 at the earliest, probably later. At ten to ten the owner drove up in her car expressing slight surprise I was still there. She said she could come back later if I am not ready. I said I would take about half an hour but she remembered her cleaner is booked for ten past ten so sat in her car outside the door while I attended to my final needs, wolfed down my cereal and packed up the bike. At ten past with her cleaner also waiting, I finally said goodbye. I got a rather brief goodbye. I’ll make no further comment – about the pedal bin with the broken lid, about the smelly compost bucket with no lid at all, about the tinny cutlery, about the shower that was impossible to get at the right temperature….

It threatened rain as I headed north from dorchester but eventually the sun came out. First stop on my route was a quick hello to the giant at Cerne Abbas, who I thought had been there for 1000 years but is probably 17th century, or a student prank as one of our hostel visitors back in 1974 thought it was. (this picture isn’t one of mine). How ever long he has been like that, he has enviable staying power.

giant from wikipedia

The route went extremely smoothly with little traffic, good weather and generally nice twisty roads. The clever GPS knows in advance where there are road closures so sent me off on what felt like a hugely complicated detour through the narrowest of twisty roads and smallest of cute villages.

I made it to Bath and rode round in circles for 10 minutes before pointing myself up the steep hill toward the hotel somewhere to the north of the city centre. My GPS said I was arriving ‘on the left’ but I saw nothing – the beautiful Bath stone buildings all look the same and I carried on up, seemingly for ages looking for somewhere to turn left. Just when I was feeling exasperated that I had gone so far, the Lansdown Grove was right in front of me and I rode straight in and parked next to the front door. It was so good to get the professional welcome that I felt was missing in my cottage.

Lansdown grove hotel

Shutters on Royal Crescent Bath


Bath in the summer is beautiful, it is packed with groups of tourists and the locals are rather posh but walking around aimlessly, listening to buskers was a delight. True to my 1970s nostalgia I visited Royal Crescent where I had stayed at the end of the mythic motorcycle trip that I retraced. I had no idea what number it was. The crescent is beautiful and it must cost a fortune to buy one of the flats now. Even in 1974, one building seemed to be divided into at least two flats and probably three.

Now I am back in my room, not working on my book but catching up with this account of this short trip.

My room in Lansdown Hotel Bath

Leaving East Rew Cottage

Saturday 23rd July

I’m nearly packed and ready to ride up to Bath for two nights in the Lansdown Hotel which looks like an old pile. I can almost smell the carpet cleaner and hear the creaky floorboards now.

I took an enjoyable and sunny ride down to Lulworth Cove yesterday afternoon after writing until 2.30. The place was rather crawling with tourists but the coast is beautiful there and the sea stunningly blue. The ride over there was good too with lovely roads, though the ring road around Dorset always seems to be completely packed.

Lulworth cove, Dorset

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The writing has gone pretty well. It took a few days to build up concentration on it. I have written the final flourish and gone back over parts of the manuscript where there were gaps. I still have one of those gaps to finish but I have a map of headings for that and then finally finish another chapter. Then the whole thing is down. So many ‘events’ have happened during the writing of it, terrorism, the EU referendum, Jeremy Corbin’s rise and perhaps fall, events in nursing too. It seems the speed of news is increasing.

Last night and this morning my challenge was to eat everything that was left in the fridge and I have risen to that pretty well with only a couple of unfinished items to leave behind. The sky is heavy though rain isn’t forecast. I worked out last night, in a moment of inspiration, how to programme routes into my snazzy GPS so I am curious to know if it will work. My first stop will be to look at the Cerne Abbas giant, assuming he is still there. I have realised that the recreation of my fond memory of the ride in 1974 from Dorset to Bath by motorcycle won’t exactly work. What made that trip so memorable, or at least has made the memory of the memory memorable, is that it was a beautiful sunny Sunday evening when we rode. Today will be a gloomy Saturday morning (its actually getting gloomier) so not perhaps having the same magic. Still, with any luck it should be a good route and I am in no hurry at all.

doing the washing at East Rew barn

Dorchester: old and new


I rode in to Dorchester and after going round a few circles found somewhere to park. It was quite a practical visit. I bought magazines in Smiths (how I love Smiths) and stood outside Boots hanging on their free wi-fi to download to my phone notes about nurses on strike and the details of a couple of films I am mentioning that involve nurses – one being The English Patient, sentimental but beautifully shot.

Finally, after passing so many town centre coffee chains and tourist tea rooms, I found a great independent coffee shop off the beaten track just next to where I had parked and had the most delicious coffee before heading back. Does coffee really smell nicer in these places than in chains or is it just that I am thirstier when I go in?

I also found Waitrose Dorchester – in a huge huge new development of fake classical buildings to the West of the city. Every shop there seems to sell mobility aids or be a nursing agency. The demographic here is definitely on the oldy side. Those zimmer frames with wheels and bags attached are the common mode of transport on the streets here.

I am just starting to build up momentum writing. Look:

 Actually writing my book

Monday: the day of burning

Today I managed to just about complete my chapter on critical theory, Marx and critique and to burn my legs in an hour lying on Chesil Beach. Apart from a telephone call with H just now I have not interacted with a single person today.

Miles 21 down through Abbotsbury to the car park by the beach and back via Dorchester Tesco.


Average speed 26mph

Maximum temperature 28 C – phew

Sunday Day 2: first day here

I slept well last night on a slightly soft mattress. I love breakfast and have some delicious rye loaf and nice jam. And there is a toaster here that takes one burnt slice to work out how to set it just right. I wrote for about an hour and tried to summarise Marx’s ideas. After that I packed up the bike – it is so easy with all my stuff to hand and the bike just outside the door – and headed off. My aim was to find my way through the network of narrow winding lanes to Litton Cheney.

Its not far as the crow flies but the roads are enjoyable but mostly single track with tall hedges on either side. I vaguely remembered the layout of the village (from forty-one years ago believe it or not) and parked up in the pub that I remembered was next door, and over a small stream from the youth hostel. The building has been refreshed in the intervening years and a timber addition built on the left. I had forgotten that the roof is shaped as the top half of a cylinder. It is a very attractive building, with the front door left open as if inviting me to pop my head in and start to explain to whoever was inside: ‘Oh, I worked here in 1974…’
YHW Litton Cheney Dorset

Having studied the photo of me posing on Edward Goring’s brand new BMW back in ’74, I recognised the stone wall backdrop and the railings on either side of a small foot bridge over the stream that appear in the photograph. I had wondered about arranging my bike in the same spot and then asking a passer-by to take a pic – but didn’t embark on this rather tricky manoeuvre – and anyway there were few people around. (I am tempted to try it)

that wall still there

I rode off down a lane toward Bridport, then turned off at Swyre to pick up the nice coast road with fantastic views down to Chesil beach and the sea. I did find one sloping gravel car park but couldn’t find a place where I felt the bike would stay upright so, rather uncourageously, left and rejoined the road. I kept going and found my self on a busy ring road around Bridport carrying traffic down from the A35 toward Devon and Cornwall – quite a shock to be a part of this heavy traffic and a little depressing. I headed west for a while then took a detour around Charmouth and headed back. There were quite a few motorcyclists on this road. Too many to nod at.

I carried on through Abbotsbury to Weymouth, where I am sure I have been before and just when parking looked impossible found a bike-only space next to the harbour full of bobbing boats. Once off the bike I realised how warm it is, especially with heavy motorcycle gear on. I crossed a bridge on foot and walked along the road crowded with holidayers and found a not entirely promising café where I settled for a pot of tea and a salad, surrounded by families, many with crying children. As a lone traveller you notice this. I am surprised how little some parents interact with their children apart from to tell them off. Maybe I was the same.

I headed back to my favourite spot – air-conditioned Tesco Dorchester and stocked up on tonight’s dinner and Chablis as well as the best granola I could find. Already the route back to the barn is more familiar and I ride with more verve.

Back here after a shower and a nap I wrote more about Marxism and its critiques. Its slow going but I am writing. I need to spend a whole day to build up momentum (as we Labour party members say).

Miles today: 61

Average speed 27 mph

I changed gear 442 times and applied the front brakes 233 times and the rear 734. How’s that for style?

My GPS tells me that the temperature varied between 20 and 22 C but I know it was warmer than that.