The return of the Tilly

Posted by on 21, Jul 2023 in 2023 - Cathedrals, Europe, Tilly the Tandem, UK

The return of the Tilly
Post ‘Op’ Tilly rearing to go…
Westminster Abbey
People lining the streets around Buckingham Palace…
No explanation needed!
Navigating the tank traps in
Londons Green Belt
Guildford Cathedral
Life on the Canals…
Auntie Barbara…

Tillys big ‘op’ surprisingly went extremely well. There was one minor issue with the new front fork having a tiny dent on the drop out, so I just used the old fork. With Tilly looking brand spanking new (I even resprayed the stokers handlebar support and racks!) we set off for leg two of our Cathedral tour by train from Ipswich to London on the busiest train we’ve ever seen. Naturally we made matters far worse by getting a tandem on and it sticking out into the isles so some of Britain’s larger folks were actually trapped in one end of the train. But we arrived in Liverpool Street and squeezed into the lift up to street level and set off for our next 3 cathedrals.

Our first stop was Westminster Abbey, which is closed on Sundays, the day we had arrived. However, I’d emailed them and told them we were doing the cycling pilgrimage and they arranged for us to store the bike with the security whilst we got our passport stamped.  We rolled up at the front door and the staff, all nicely dressed in red blazers a bit like beefeaters, looked at their shcedule for the day and there we were! Jon and Linda Reed Tandem, to be stored in the staff bike locker.

We then got escorted through to the Deans Yard where you are allowed to drive a car but not ride a bicycle, presumably because bicycles kill so many people each year ……we locked Tilly up in the bike locker and then returned to the front door and the staff said they couldn’t find the right stamp, but were trying to find some embroidered badges for us instead. They really were lovely helpful people.

As luck would have it a service finished whislt we were chatting to them and they said we should go and have a chat with the clergy who were standing outside the main entrance to the Abbey shaking hands with the exiting congregation.

The first priest we chatted to – Bob – asked his colleague if she knew where the stamp was and she then went off to find it. Naturally it takes a woman to find something that 3 men can’t. Whilst we were waiting we asked if we could have a quick peak inside the abbey and Bob then said would we like a tour!  So off we went all over the Abbey with Bob giving us an a personal tour which was just a extraordinary experience. His knowledge was incredible and we felt so privileged and lucky to do this

We even got to go to Edward the Confessor tomb and had the option to kneel inside the alcoves around it placing a hand on his tomb and saying a prayer like Pilgrims have done here for 700 years. This area is usually closed to tourists and is where Charles and Camilla vanished into when Charles was Crowned and knelt at that tomb in prayer.

The Abbey was almost completely empty whislt we went around and we both were quite moved by it and Bobs wonderful tour. It was just a remarkable experience and one we will remember for the rest of our lives.

Our next London stop was the Parish church like Southwark Cathedral, where a Choir practice had been laid on for our entertainment which was breathtaking. How do we get so lucky?

And finally, our last stop was the also closed St Paul’s, but we found they had an organ recital at 4.30 so we went to that to collect our stamp and listen to the deafening organ for 30 minutes under the cupola. Whilst we weren’t over keen on some of the music, the experience and power of the organ was incredible.

We then had our luck run out when we tried to get into the Tate Modern and found it had closed 4 minutes ago. Oh well, I’d only go off on one about a bank piece of ripped paper in a frame…so Linda was quite relieved..

We met our nephew for dinner – another remarkable performance, this time by him as he thought when we made the arrangement that we meant the following week but he still managed to get into the city for dinner in about 30 minutes!

We love London and the cycling infrastructure is getting better every time we visit… quite right too, as whenever you have to cycle with cars, they’re the ones that always hold you up as they go soooo slowly. #Bloodycars.

The next morning we set off westwards and we’re delighted to see the crowds lining the streets outside Buck house to see the ‘Changing of the Tilly’ .  We got lots of waves, loads of pics and even a few claps and one priceless comment of “Are you cycle touring? You look too clean” ..mind you, it didn’t beat the day befores comment of “Look at that, that’s “F**^*^* gorgeous” ..may have been about Tilly or Linda, or both!

Our route out of the city avoided the mountains of Richmond park and followed the Thames all the way to Weybridge and a lovely ride it was too. But it’s so windy again. What’s going on? It seems much windier than summers I can remember, or is that just my memory?

Our hotel here had ’boutique rooms’, and for once this wasn’t just a slogan, they were actually really nice and different from the normal room. The restaurant however was very disappointing for us veggies. Poor choice, uninspiring and expensive offering all the usual things and nothing ‘Boutique..’

The route to Guildford passes the Brooklands race track and then follows the river Wey and the Wey Navigation all the wey(!). It’s a beautiful if incredibly slow (even by our snail like speeds) route. It’s often grass or a 3 inch rut that I never like cycling in, but is so pretty it makes up for it.

We reached Guildford and then tried to get to the Cathedral which is on top of a hill just outside the city. Well that was a pain in the bum. Everytime we followed a sign we ended up at steps that we couldn’t get Tilly up and had to retrace our steps. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if there wasn’t this bloomin big hill involved and we ended going down and up through the University campus three times – our projected days climb of 80m (it’s almost Dutch like flatness along the canals) turned into a 215m day, largely due to our impersonation of the  Duke of York marching up and down the hill.

We did obviously find it in the end and it’s not that impressive being a post war plain overgrown parish church. Definitely our least favourite so far, but the cafe did beans on toast for lunch so full marks there .

We decided not to retrace our steps along the Wey as we turned around and headed toward St Alban’s and instead nearly got knocked off Tilly by one of these 2.5 tonne BMW ‘out of my way I’m an absolute tosser’ ZX5bgt or some other ridiculous suffixed BMW made to make middle aged men feel macho. We were slowly slogging up a hill in Woking and the said Twat in BMW approached from behind. We have two mirrors so I saw all this clearly. He, slowed down behind us waited for all of 1/2 second then decided he really desperately needed to turn left right in front of us, so sped past and began his turn, whilst we were half way across the junction. He couldn’t make it obviously without hitting us and Tilly ended up touching his door as we both came to a halt with us yelling at him and about 20 school boys happily joining in with great gusto ‘Oying’ and ‘ You fucking iduot’ comments and much merriment.

We continued up the hill to clapping and cheering from the teenagers, many who ran next to us and high fived us and headed as we headed toward the Thames, where we caught up with Twat in BMW’S wife. She was not a happy bunny as she was forced to wait behind the car behind us as we cycled up a narrow road.

She even yelled abuse at us out of the window, and when the very patient excellent driver behind us passed us she took the stiching off the panniers as she did such a close pass as her revenge, which is probably not the best idea in rush hour around London. She ground to halt in an enormous queue further up the road just at the cycle crossing place. She saw us coming along the cycle path and desperately tried to inch forward to prevent us crossing. Sod that for a game of bananas I thought as I thrust Tilly infront of her and she had to stop hoot and yell at us again and shout what was our f’in problem, to which I replied ‘You shouldn’t have yelled at us back there’, she was incandescent with rage but stuck in her car as we glided off into the distance. The Klingon proverb Revenge is a dish, best served cold came to mind.

It’s odd, All day we pass walkers with and without dogs, other cyclists, people in mobility scooters, all of which we either stopped for or vice versa and all of whom smile, thank us, said hello, wave or say something nice. Get in a car though and people become nasty, selfish and damn right horrible. I bet if they were walking their dog they’d be nice as pie. What is it about being behind the wheel in a car?… Rant over!

After that we followed the Thames and the multi million pound pads lining it. Amazing amazing amazing. I think we’d struggle to afford the duck house around here it’s so posh! But it is gorgeous.

We then had to navigate Heathrow and I’d spent a lot of time with Google Street view, so we actually sailed around on cycle paths and deserted back streets to our next Premier Inn for the night and a much needed beer or two..

The route onto St Alban’s was more canal, old railway and back roads and a very nice cycle and we rolled up at my aunt’s nursing home late afternoon in sunshine where Barbara was sitting outside waiting for us. We had a nice drink and chat with her then headed off to the Cathedral.

It’s a very odd cathedral with mismatched walls – some Round arches, some pointed facing in each other, but it does have the oldest tower in England and was made from Roman stone from the old city of Verulamium. It’s also got the tomb of Britain’s first saint – Alban, some wonderful ceilings and one of the only surviving watching lofts where officials could keep an eye on us Pilgrims as we visit the tomb!

Having collected our stamp (number 16) we adjourned to our Premier Inn (maybe we should buy shares?) And off for a delicious Indian.

We had a day off taking my aunt out for lunch and catching up with some friends in the evening and then set off the next day on a grey day that became wetter and wetter until we would have had more use for an Ark than a tandem. The Grand Union Canal tow path varies in quality from brilliant to where the hell is it? But that day the clay soil was like ice and we slipped and slithered on foot for about 8km unable to cycle and barely able to stay upright

Tilly went over twice on slippery roots and I ended up with one foot up to my knee in the canal too. The path was in many places a mess of nettles which I’m now imune to and numerous hawthorns. We often had to stop pushing for Linda to remove the thorns from my hands and on once occasion I had three in one finger!

When we could eventually cycle again the greenery was so weighed down by rain and lack of maintenance that we would be on and off the bike every 30m. We must have got in and off around 100 times or more.

We even gave up for a while and used the road – something we couldn’t do in many places as the only choice was the A41 dual carriageway. When we did get on the smaller back roads we had the normal, check the mirror, nothing coming, indicate to turn right, move to the middle of the road and nearly get mowed down by a car overtaking us. Why? What is it about an arm sticking out that car drivers (always male) don’t understand? Is it too complicated for them? I did read once that women could multi task and men couldn’t …

Anyway, we surfed into Aylesbury and took shelter with a lady under an overhanging office and had a very British conversation with the lady – isn’t it lovely weather etc etc. Very amusing, whist we checked our phone map. Using that in the rain is fun. Every time it turns on it thinks the rain drops are fingers and you end up ordering a pizza and a taxi as your phone does it own thing, hence the shelter, to dry the screen first, but eventually arrived at you guessed it…our premier inn for the night where the very kind receptionist kept the buckets of water coming so we could wash Tilly, our panniers and ourselves down to stop us trailing a path of mud through to our room where the rest of the evening was spent drying out!

One Comment

  1. Superb blog! Great story about “Twat in BMW’s wife” Brilliant!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.