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NO COMPASS | NO MAP

Notes – Easter 2015

Spring is meek this year, easily subsumed by Winter’s clasp. What of it? Other than the impatience felt for the warm sun on our necks. Nothing. It’s nothing unusual. The later evening light is something of a relief from the dark cloak of winter anyway.

The Easter weekend had promised a longer-than-usual ride opportunity – a ride from my home in Sussex to my home-town in North Hampshire. Route instructions, in three parts, scrawled onto a sheet of paper, neatly folded into a plastic sandwich bag and placed into a jersey pocket with tools, spare tubes, repair kit, phone and some hot cross buns.

90 miles or so. Nothing in the grand scheme of things really. An early season test of mind and body. A passage gently traversed through 4 counties; East Sussex, West Sussex, Surrey and into North Hampshire.

Part 1. East and West Sussex passed through, a closer, more casual, acquaintance with these roads and the constant drizzle making part 1 of the journey uneventful. Soon stood at the very edge of West Sussex, to take a piss, to briefly check the route sheet, to take a photo.

Part 2. Surrey – a whiff of familiarity to a scratchy memory; that fresh leafy mulch smell, roads that awaken a sense that this has always felt like home, it has been home, but has never been home. Narrow lanes, a tunnel roof of bare bone branches creep above, ready for the spring canopy, gently creaking with the northerly wind.

High banks with sinuous tree roots flank the lanes, habitat to the woodland dogs and bitches – the lanes are silent but for the northerly wind rustling through the trees. This day I don’t mind the sound of my own thoughts. Round Dunsfold and on to Chiddingfold to find some lunch.

Mid afternoon, just after 3pm and small village life closes down – the local café closed, a private function taking up one pub, the other open but no longer selling food, not even a sandwich. Let’s see if I can survive the rest of the ride on a beer and some peanuts then. The beer was good. The peanuts nondescript, but served in a small saucer – how quaint. Already £7 lighter, I didn’t linger for another beer.

Round the back to Milford – my brain, incomprehensibly, connects The Curse of Millhaven and I sing to myself “La la la la la la la lie, All God’s children they all gotta die”, I look at the grey tarmac of the A283 moving beneath my tyres, and the red brick houses and smile at the incredulity of my idle thoughts.

Over the A3 and onto the Elstead road. In Elstead kids playing in the street politely heckle “would you like some Haribo” – I nod “no thanks, my mum told me never to take sweets from strange children” and head on into the Wey Valley.

Farnham. I lose my way a bit, missing the right turn I should have taken I end up at the bypass. Bugger. Half a mile back towards the town to find road I want to take and head on into Hampshire.

Part 3. Hampshire. The roads and sky open up – I have crossed the border into the very eastern reaches of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex. Beyond this border not much existed before. Once upon a time not much existed beyond the boundaries of the Basingstoke ring road, never mind Thomas Hardy’s Wessex – oh God that fear of “just around here, in our rattling cars”.

The vast Hampshire sky remembered. A sky as vast as a rook’s wingspan – if only I had appreciated it more back then. I didn’t understand I suppose. Bent on escape.

Place names now, retrieved negative images in a scratchy memory, Odiham, Greywell, Mapledurwell, Hatch, Old Basing. Places and names long since overlooked. For shame. There is much to learn about these places and names and I never have taken the time to even ponder – too bent on escape.

Basingstoke – it’s not my home anymore but the connections are still strong and I have had the time to forgive the place its trespass on my psyche – I no longer flinch. I view it in the prism of experience, and I don’t mind.

The ride was uneventful, except for the event and occasion of the ride.

Welcome home Son.

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