Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A Crazy Bank Holiday

We had a crazy day on Monday. It started off like any holiday Monday should: no plan, no timeline, no 'needs-to-get-done's, no nothing. I sent a message to my friends, saying we were thinking of going to the playground in the morning, but we were thinking of getting home early enough for Elizabeth to have a good long nap - so we could have one too. In other words, a nice, relaxed, easy day.

Our day could not have been any different.

My pal Kate replied, and told us her family was going to cycle down to the Reach Fair, which is "very English". With an introduction like that, how could we not go?? Reach village is 11miles away, which sometimes sounds like, 'oh, it's only eleven miles', but at other times sounds like, 'oh my goodness, why is eleven miles so far??" and then at even other times, "Are you [expletive] kidding me? I have to cycle ELEVEN MILES to get back home???" (You can insert your own pun here, for example: "originally, it seemed within Reach." badoom-boom-pssshhhh)

Here is the map if we had gone along the roadway:
 And here is what it felt like we cycled:

I'm sure it wasn't quite so windy - but then I just showed Matthew my version of the route, and he said, "It's probably not that far off..." As well, it was one of those typically British overcast-but-not-quite-rainy mornings, which meant it could either rain in the afternoon or be a glorious, sunny and clear afternoon. We took our chances.

It all started so well! We headed north: Elizabeth on Matthew's bike, Kate and myself each on our own, and Sam had their two boys, Freddy & Cal, in their boat-bike. Elizabeth had just nodded off (note her baby doll, who is also strapped into the bike seat), and we came to a fence. With a big lock. Hmmm...

 It requires noting that there are weird old laws in England, where public footpaths can go across private lands, and landowners have to allow pedestrians to access it. (I'm paraphrasing here, but they're something like that. Anyone British want to expand on this?) But hefting a boat-bike and three children over that fence didn't seem like a great plan. After conferring with the map (and google map app), we decided to backtrack. If you refer back to the map, this is when we went back on ourselves towards Waterbeach.

And we found another fence.


But it was early in the day, and we'd only been cycling for about 45 minutes, so hey, what's one fence?? I somehow got the glorious job of photographer and child-watcher:

Hooray!! They did it!!!
We packed the kids in again, gave them some treats to keep them happy, and carried on. It was a lovely path - right along the river, and there was some kind of mini-sailboat race so it was all nicey nice.  (Matthew thinks they were Laser boats - and when I said, 'Honey, not everything is about lasers', he directed me to that page. Harrumph.) Then we got to the end of the path, where the map said we should turn right. Uh oh. What did we meet up with? Another fence - with this sign:

Hmmm... Written permission? From who? And what if we walk our bikes? Sometimes, I love England. I love England enough to ignore their signs, and cheer as my friends lift the boat bike up and over the fence. Again.

Now we were heading towards a town called Lode. The puns abounded, it was marvelous.

Everyone was still in pretty good spirits, steering away from the cow poops, and pointing out the cows and sheeps for the kids, when wouldn't you know it: another fence. Seriously???

Kate was the only one still cheery enough to cheer. Hip-hip-hooray! Also, that is a baby doll in the bottom corner, not a real baby. The real babies are here, looking thoroughly non-plussed. I imagine this was their conversation:
     Cal: What are our parents doing?
     Elizabeth: Who cares, this apple is amazing.
     Cal: No seriously, look, they're totally going to scratch up my sweet ride. 
     Eliz: Wanna have a bite?
     Freddy: Be quiet you guys, I'm trying to nap here.
We tried to let them have a little walk. Cal refused, and climbed back into his seat, and Elizabeth did the dawdliest, poky little stroll behind us. We saw a swan on a massive nest - that required a lot of shouting and pointing by Eliz. We also saw this tree, and from afar Matthew thought it was a person, waiting with a gun to shoot us. Kate thought it was a bull. Even still, we carried on.

We carried on right up to . . . you guessed it, another fence!!! By this time, photography was not encouraged, as you can imagine. Neither was a loud cheering squad. I just kept the kids quiet and out of the way. The other 3 were a well-oiled machine.

At this point, we looked back to where we had begun this 'detour' - approximately one hour before . We realized we had hefted 3 adult bicycles, 2 toddlers, 1 infant in a carseat, and one boat bike weighing around 140 lbs, all for the sake of about 100 yards. Well played, team, well played.

The amazing thing is: even though we had been through so much, we were all still in pretty good moods! I couldn't stop giggling at the situation, Matthew was just content to be in the countryside on a bike, and the Tudors seemed pretty fine as well. Miraculous!

The rest of the journey to the fair was uneventful (thank goodness) but long. We kept to the National Cycle Network roads and I've never been so glad to see concrete. Oh, but this is where it really started to rain. Elizabeth kept saying, "Mummy, whatcha doing? Oh, Mummy, it's raining! It's pouring Mummy! Mummy, whatcha doing? Oh, Mummy, it's raining!!"

We finally made it to the fair - pretty much exactly three hours after we left. Three hours! I KNOW!!!!

It was . . . a British fair. First order of business was obviously beer, followed by sausages for the kids (and adults). We watched Morris dancers (read: old dudes hopping around, not smiling, banging sticks and ringing bells - seriously), Sam won 3 coconuts at some fairground game, it rained, and Elizabeth needed alone time when we were at the beer tent. She sat on the ground about 5 feet away from us and played with her toys.

And does anyone remember our last fair experience? With Poppy the falcon who flew away? We saw the birds again!! But they fail again, because it was too rainy to let them fly. Elizabeth was still pretty stoked to see them.

We elected to go home via the most direct National Cycle Network route. It rained for about half the journey. The sun came out just as we were crossing the Cam back into our neighbourhood. Obviously.

Okay, so I really needed some kind of "in conclusion" to this post, and fate presented itself to me as we were crossing the Cam that afternoon. Because dudes, I totally saw a cow in the river. One of the cows that was on Midsummer Common got into the river, and was having a little panicky paddle trying to get out. A cow in the river?? As if!! I knew none of you would believe me, so here are a couple photos:
And then a rowing team just rowed on past the poor little cow. You will all be glad to know that the cow got out safely. What a Cambreejian end to a super British day!

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