We live in extraordinary times. The last time Bobby’s life was in such a turmoil was in 2015, when he lost Diddley. The weeks and months that followed that were very difficult. But they had one certainty. She wasn’t coming back.
He had always done things on his own. Walking in the mountains of Austria. Airshows and so on. Content in the knowledge that he was coming back to a warm embrace from his beloved. But now, he realised that life could be an opportunity to explore new interests. On his own. Mindfully Bertie was born at this time.
So successful was he in reinventing himself that there were bound to be casualties. The biggest being cycling. He just stopped. As the weeks and months went by, he just didn’t get back on his bikes. He had been a Sustrans Ranger for a number of years and embraced that organisation with great enthusiasm. Sustrans was made for him. He loved being part of such a forward thinking organisation. He even had his own group. The Surrey Hills Group. A few friends looking after Route 22 of the National Cycle Network from Banstead to Shere.
Then one day he realised it was now four years since he had ridden a bike. He wasn’t even interested any more. His life was so busy and fulfilling there was no place for cycling. And, reluctantly, there was no place for Sustrans. And he resigned.
That’s how it would undoubtedly be today if it had not been for one extraordinary event. Covid-19.
Once again, as the weeks and months have gone by, he has found a new, far more relaxed, lifestyle. One full of apprehension and seemingly no end in sight. But also rewarding in not charging around as he had been doing.
One day his great friend Rob asked “Have you ever considered going back to cycling?”. “Too late now, Rob. Too old.”
“Ah yes, Bob, but you are doing three Zoom YMCA gyms a week and must be getting fitter.”
“I am … for walking in the hills.” “What about an electric bike?” “What? You must be joking! They are for saddos and district nurses!”
“When did you last look? You could be very surprised.”
So he did, and thought “very nice”. Expensive and unaffordable pre Covid-19. But now, his only expense is Charlie Bigham pies from Waitrose. He could save and promise himself that the bike would not be bought until he could call it his ‘Covid-19 Electric Bike’.
And then, another great friend David, originally from his Sustrans days but now his Sutton United partner, asked “What happened to your Brompton?”.
“Under the bench in the shed. Hasn’t moved for 5 years.”
“Get it out and start again.”
And he did. A morning cleaning the filth and sawdust off. Polishing, greasing and a once over service by Mike the Bike. And suddenly he was back. The Brompton Revival! The beauty of a folding bike is its flexibility. So he took it to his son’s by the coast on Fathers’ Day and rode along to Littlehampton and back.
Hopefully he will get that electric bike. But, for now, he has plans for the Brompton. He still has fond memories of adventures on that bike. Many with Sustrans.
Brand new. December 2008. Most Bromptons are bespoke. He chose blue and silver. Now check the manual to unfold it in the correct order!
First ride. 27 December 2008.
First big outing. March 2009. Cycle to Deepdene Station. Fold the bike and put it on the train to Alton. And then onto a steam train to Ropley for the Watercress Line Spring Gala.
Memorial bench at Ropley for Bobby’s brother Tony.
Onto a steam train at Ropley.
October 2009. Sustrans convention, Cardiff. Cycling from Cardiff Central…
…to Caerphilly Castle. All Sustrans events included a cycle ride for the Rangers.
December 2009. His first and only demonstration. Encircling Parliament with a peaceful Blue Wave of climate protesters. He a guest of The London Bike Group. Progress was very slow. Every time they stopped, the lady to the left got her knitting out of her bag and knitted contentedly.
March 2011. Sustrans Convention Liverpool. Ken Dodd was still living opposite.
Liverpool. Everton Football Club.
March 2011. North Pembrokeshire. NCN Route 4. St David’s to Fishguard. Near Strumble Head.
March 2011. North Pembrokeshire. Pwll Derri. Looking west towards St David’s.
May 2011. Tarka Trail Devon. Disused railway tunnel, heading towards Bideford.
May 2011. Tarka Trail. (See otter footprint symbol).
September 2011. NCN Route 23. Newport to Sandown, Isle of Wight. Merstone disused station.
September 2011. NCN Route 23, Isle of Wight.
September 2011. NCN Route 23. Disused station, now a private house. Alverstone, Isle of Wight. Whenever Bobby passes through Alverstone, he always thinks of his mum and dad. A family holiday staying in Ryde. A bus to Alverstone. Strawberries and cream in the garden of Strawberry Cottage and…
…a rowing boat on the river at Alverstone. Bobby’s mum and dad. Bobby had jumped out to take the picture. Note what the working class wore on holiday in 1964.
September 2011. Island Railway using (and still in 2020) ancient London Underground stock between Ryde and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight.
September 2011. Haven Street heritage steam railway at Wootton, Isle of Wight.
September 2011. Haven Street Steam Railway. Guards van.
September 2011. Haven Street Steam Railway. Victorian carriage.