Balmy in Biggleswade
The sun fought to burn through the pinky-purple haze when Brown Bike and I set off at 7am this morning. We avoid travelling before 9am because we are not keen on commuters. They know these country lanes forwards and backwards (but mostly not sideways). They know the exact speed they can take each corner, and the gaps in the hedgerows they can peer through on the lookout for other traffic. Bikes are rare at this hour, so motorists don't watch out for them. I know this because I used to be such a motorised commuter.
We had a reason for the early start: Aldi's "special buy" of biking bling. Mostly clothing: compression underwear, winter shirts and jackets, armwarmers, overshoes, lights to strap on my limbs, whatever.
Aldi in Biggleswade is much like Lidl in St Neots but larger, with more stock and fewer customers. True, the shop is a short walk from the High Street and Market Square, but a larger problem may be the map on their website. This uses www.yellowmap.de to show a map of the town with a big "X" in the centre. So that's where we went — to a residential street. Some friendly locals pointed us towards the shop, and their directions became increasingly accurate the closer we got, in a series of decreasing circles.
(Back at home, I looked again at the map: Aldi is marked in the correct place but their symbol is less obvious than the big "X" so I missed it.)
From our spiral route, I thought we would be too late for the bike stuff. Arrive ten minutes after opening time at Lidl in St Neots, and I have to fight the scrum. Aldi is more civilised: I was the second customer in the store, and the first wasn't a cyclist. So I rummaged around alone and spent more than I wanted to but less than I feared.
Lidl has supplied me with blue clothing so I bought a red jacket, which turned out to be almost exactly the same colour as my Altura Arc panniers. I think I have a matching pair of red socks. But don't worry; there is no danger of me or BB becoming satorially elegant. BB is still sporting two bottle holders: his own black one, and a white one he nicked from Ruby Bike for the Yorkshire tour.
Last time I was in Biggleswade was behind the wheel of an MG Midget, which dates the visit to before 1989 (when SWMBO got the Midget as part of the divorce settlement). Since then, the town centre has been tarted up. The market square has a smart paviour surface, and the roads around it have 20 mph limits. There are pavement build-outs and tables at crossings (i.e. the road surface is raised to the pavement level: cars have to go up and down, and pedestrians don't). It isn't all perfect: one apparent crossing now has a metal fence barrier at each kerb, preventing pedestrians from crossing and creating a cyclist cheese-grater. Perhaps cars didn't slow enough and there were accidents, so the highwaymen took the obvious step of preventing peds from getting in the way. Further on, one side of the road was blocked by a police car, two slightly crunched cars and two recovery vehicles.
If the market square has any bike stands, I couldn't find them. It does have plenty of park benches, and BB greedily hogged one all to himself.
We dawdled on the way home, and the traffic was light, so we took more piccies.
We arrived home well before lunchtime, deliberately to avoid the heat of the day. Sloes in the hedgerows and long shadows tell us the time of year, but the clear blue sky, lack of wind and my unaccustomed sweat speak a different story. It's 1pm and my outside thermometer already reads 30.7°C. It's a weird world.