We couldn't meet at Cleopatra's, as Wales was subject to the latest strict set of lockdown rules. My telephone enquiry earlier in the week to Alison's in Tattenhall was met with a warm and welcoming response. Alison was happy to accommodate us in relative safety. There was a heater on the covered patio if we preferred to have our coffee al fresco. It was a cold but brilliantly sunny start to Christmas Eve. I wasn't sure if anyone would turn up, with Covid cases rising, family demands and last minute domestic preparations being made. I thought Neil would make it, as he is a consistent lobbyist for Alison's. In fact, it is said that when he's not cycling or playing golf, he can sometimes be seen walking along the pavement in Tattenhall wearing an Alison's sandwich board around his neck. I wonder though, if his advocacy for this admittedly admirable establishment may have something to do with the fact that he has only to fall out of bed and he's there? He, no doubt, would have had an enjoyable, clean(!) route to suggest, with the excellent local knowledge that he has now acquired. Also, I had forgotten that Dave Matthews had let me know that he would be attending, but not riding if there was any chance of icy roads. Neil did send me an email later to say that he couldn't be with us, as he was riding with his son, which seems a smashing thing to do at Christmas.
It was good to see Nick, who had cycled out to deliver season's greetings, but generally had been doing little riding. He said that his local lanes were in a potentially dangerous state for cycling, and this wasn't helped by large tractors speeding around them. He felt that concentrating on trying to stay safe was preventing him from relaxing and enjoying his riding as normal. Jim had made the effort, but only in civvies as he had afternoon commitments. John, Ivan and Clive had ridden out from Chester, and as far as I understood, had no ambitious ride plans, as they were intending to return home handily. As far as a moderate ride goes, I had conjured up a route to The Horse and Jockey at Grindley Brook, and provisionally booked for lunch for four. However, a solo ride was now my only option, and having decided that eating alone for lunch didn't appeal, it seemed easier to drive home and ride locally, without having to think about novel routes, or falling off alone down some rarely used lane. Dave Matthews intended to do the same, as he felt that there was less chance of icy patches by the beginning of the afternoon. One thing I have reflected on this year is that we all have our own reasons, thresholds and judgements when it comes to assessing risk. I remember Ray Hardman, who used to be a key lead rider when I joined the club, cycling something like 13,000 miles well before the year was up, but he would never risk riding if there was ice about. For what it's worth, as long as you stayed alert, I didn't feel that the conditions were very risky on Thursday, although there was plenty of ice about on Christmas Day. I have given up looking for photographs of us cycling in the snow, but I do recall many wintry excursions on club rides. If you scroll back on the website to December 29th, 2016 to Daresbury; January 5th 2017 to Rhuddlan (-4C); December 28th 2017 to Overton, and March 1st 2018, all provide interesting evidence of our past willingness to take on challenging winter conditions, thankfully without any serious incidents. Reckless or resilient?
Whilst sifting through the archives I came across a report written by Macca which supports my aversion to cycling to Malpas, as he informs us that “mal” is Norman for “poor” and “pas” for roads! I can recommend “The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive” by Isola Press for brilliant, evocative photographs of cycling in all conditions and environments on ordinary road and touring bikes. Dave Pipe would enjoy this book; it even features some of his favourite oilskin capes.
Anyway, to get back to the reason I started to write up the ride that didn't happen, was to acknowledge the camaraderie of friends making the effort to enjoy a coffee and a chat at Alison's despite Covid and it being Christmas Eve. This is why it is such a pleasure to be a member of this club.