You should get a bell. I'm deaf you know.

We've been away for a week in Dartmouth, Devon. Didn't do any riding at all. It's not really mountain biking country, and to a degree proved a point I make now and then; that I only go mountain biking because here in East Surrey I can. I've lived in a few places; the Midlands for 21 years, Dorset a few times adding up to a good few years - quite frankly any length of time spent in North Dorset where I was is too much, North Wales for five years, and here in Surrey for over twenty. The only place where I've ever considered myself a mountain biker is here in Surrey. We have such good trail access that it would be rude not to. It seems odd that when I lived in Wales mountain biking was in its' infancy, and a bit of a no-goer but there you go. When I lived in Wales my life was full of motorbikes. I've now got tinitus permanently, and when the weather sets in I can have a limp thanks to multiple offs. But that's another story for another day.

Anyway, I'm rambling as usual. I did take a copy of MBR to read on holiday, but it held no interest for me at all. I'm so fickle! Much happier reading about life in Devon, especially the incumbent Joe Jacks t-shirt company that seems to be a little further down the road than my own Muddy Ground. Quite like the simplicity of his designs and his website is cooler than mine. But then I'm lazy and would rather be riding than faffing with web design. Well, wouldn't you?

Dartmouth was an odd place and I didn't take to it at all for a few days. It seemed a bit false, a bit shallow. The type of place where you can buy endless designer handbags for £5,000, yachting jackets for £600 or £8,000 drawings of boats. Where young couples in their mid 20's drive £100k Range Rovers, or where 40 year old men who have a little dinghy absolutely need a £30k Land Rover 90 with £45k worth of after-market accessories. We took the kids to breakfast one morning; a bit of a fry up. Cost £30 exactly at Alf Resco. Here in Surrey we could do the same for around £18, not that we do very often these days. There is an urban myth going around that one house sold for £500,000 twenty years ago and has never been lived in. Chelsea on Sea? But after somebody in the next town pointed out that it was a bit false, a bit 'holiday' as they put it, that out of season the population dropped by 80%, or that some houses have never been lived in, I warmed to it and accepted it for what it was; an upmarket Centre Parc for Yuppies.  In the end I really quite enjoyed the place, even though I never totally accepted the £14 we got charged each morning for coffee and cake - and we stopped every day at different cafes; it seemed a standard tariff for having a coffee. £2.30 for an orange squash? Bring it on. People there were friendly in the way that people with real money are; no agenda other than just having fun.

One indicator as to how slightly shallow the town of Dartmouth is, is that the world's first working engine was invented there by Thomas Newcomen yet the town hardly mentions it at all. Sure they've got a copy engine there, but it is attached to the visitor centre and has an aluminium ladder leaning against it casual like as the place is being decorated. That's the sum total of their celebration of the man; a non-working model used as a prop for decorating materials. Can you imagine that happening in somewhere like America? "Hey! Some guy in our little town invented the very basis for modern society. He was one of the world's most influential inventors. Lets forget about him and instead celebrate modern but expensive tat." It wouldn't happen would it? What a funny place. Indeed the whole area seems rather unkeen to celebrate past events, such as being the area that acted as a practise ground for the invasion of Normandy. Kind of a big deal that? Dartmouth seems almost embarrassed to have been the setting off point for the Pilgrims, the area chosen for the Normandy landings and also effectively as the home to the modern world. All very odd. You can imagine Jesus having been born there and the town council celebrating it with a little blue plaque above a chip shop.

Kingswear as seen from our rental property one moody night.
Dartmouth was also interesting for three other reasons. Firstly parking is a joy. Our car was parked a fifteen minute walk away, which was considered close. no really, fifteen minutes away was considered a good thing - the visitors' book in our property was full of comments hinting at cars being parked in different time zones. We were lucky to find a spot at all. There are parking restrictions everywhere, with two hour limits in most places. No problem for us this week as neither of us wanted to drive, but it is a little mean spirited. Secondly there were 92 steps down to our property. 92. This is also the norm, and again we got used to it. You don't like steps though, don't go to Dartmouth. Thirdly it is where the Pilgrim fathers sailed from - one of whom, William Mullins, was from our very own Dorking. Oh and there is a fourth - the model of Newcomen's steam engine was made virtually next door to where my wife works here in Surrey.

We liked the town and had a good time. Our daughter in particular seemed to make friends at will, playing with one girl for three days. It is a struggle though. One road in means if some doddery old fool wants to do 30mph for twenty miles, then so do you. As indeed happened to us on the return leg. And this being the UK, where overtaking is positively frowned upon [honest - I overtake a lot and get the kind of looks when I do that people who dress up in Nazi uniforms for fun get], you get stuck way back in a crocodile queue*. The cafe prices are frankly a joke, but you soon learn to make sandwiches for lunch. Indeed the topic of cafe prices is a bit of an ice breaker here if you are stuck for conversation with strangers. If it rains there is nothing to do, nowhere to hide. Luckily the weather there was great this week. I'd hate to be there on a wet week.

Totnes a bit further up the river Dart was an oddity though. Very hippy but hippy in the sense that Father Dear has just bought little Angelina her first "going it alone, got to tough it in the real world" business an organic, gluten free cafe for a cool £500k. Where Dartmouth was at least honest in trying to free rich people from their money, Totnes seemed false in a much more sinister way. There's always something "I take, you give" about hippies that I object to. They want the free life but somebody else has to pay for it and clear up their mess afterwards. I did a show with some hippies a few years ago; they were very aggressive in selling their hand made, organic soaps to "save the planet" but were quite happy to leave empty crisp packets and coke cans for somebody esle to clear up. The notion of the free life is good, and hats off to any hippy that achieves it, but the "Daddy is an investment banker and I'm trying to save the world before I inherit £900m and take over the family investment firm" lot can just sod off.

Anyway, home now and out for a ride, it's Sunday after all. I'm not going to bore you like some other local web sites do with an "97 of us went out for a spin to Leith Hill and we went here there yada yada yada" type blow by blow account. All I'm going to tell you is my old woman story which forms the title.

Lots of people about and I'm always patient with walkers and horse riders. No rush, no worries, it's just a ride chill out babe. All morning at various choke points along my route I was calling out an happy "hello, may I pass?" type warning and slowing to walking pace, having the odd little pleasantry with people. Never got to the point where they were going to name their first borns after me you understand, just little "nice weather" type exchanges. Now on a road - an actual road with cars and things, not trail with pedestrians - there were two people ahead of me. Both walking down the middle, not a care in the world. They must both have been 70 years old, doddery as anything. It went like this:

Me: Hello, may I pass on the right please?

Old woman jumps into the air, moves to the left quickly. Gives me a dirty look as if I've just asked to goose her.

Old Woman: You should get a bell. I'm deaf you know.

Me in a conversational voice: Oh, sorry but you moved quick enough.

Old woman: Yes but I'm deaf. I can't hear you. Get a bell.

Me: I find there's no need to have one if I call out.

Old Woman: That's as may be. But I'm deaf, you should get a bell.

Me: Your hearing seems fine to me.

Old Woman: I'm deaf!

Is it me? Ah well as Bill Bryson magically said once: no sweat. She'll be dead soon.

*And why is it that the person right at the front will do 38mph everywhere? 60mph zone? 38mph. 20mph zone in a town centre with children running around? 38mph. Slight corner or incline, 12mph. Chance to overtake them on a motorway or dual carriageway? Bugger, they'll sprint up to 99mph bouncing off the rev limiter all the way thereby ensuring that when the road goes back to single file you will still be stuck behind them at whatever speed they deem appropriate. Utter bastards.