Normanby - Osmotherly - London - Middlesbrough - Sheffield - CycleBlaze

September 27, 2008

Normanby - Osmotherly

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In spite of last night's beer, I was up early enough to finish the job and get back on the bike that afternoon. I had another job to start the following Wednesday, so I'd booked a train from Sheffield back to London, on Tuesday afternoon. Patrick was free for most of Monday, so we intended to spend the day together, spending my money. That meant no Yorkshire Dales for me.

I found a campsite on the web, in Osmotherley, a pretty village in the north-west corner of the Moors NP. I said my goodbyes to Pete and Faith, then followed, as usual , a minor road route, as far as possible. I took a wrong turning on the edge of one of Middlesbrough's new suburbs. A man working in his garden put me back on track.

Once out of the suburbs, it was beautiful cycling, warm, sunny, in the odd place autumnal. It was slightlier lumpier than I expected, with a stiff climb up to Hutton Rudby. Tees-side seemed very far away, but I kept in touch by listening to Radio Tees's broadcast of the second half of the match at the Riverside on my Mp3 player. Beyond Hutton Rudby, I aimed for Swainby from where I could take the back road into Osmotherly. I knew I had a bit of a climb to get up on to the escarpment, but one hairpin stretch was just too much and I succumbed to having to walk again.

At the campsite, situated in an attractive hollow, below the village, the owner asked me which way I'd come. 'Through Swainby.' I answered. He sucked his teeth. 'It's a tough ride, is that.' Now I didn't feel so bad.

Out of Middlesbrough, Cleveland Hills escarpment in the distance.
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Roseberry Topping, again.
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Autumn on its way, near Hutton Rudby.
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More of autumn.
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Tees-side is back there in the haze.
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Cod Beck reservoir.
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Winter feed.
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Campsite, Osmotherly.
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Campsite, Osmotherly. Office and shop. House.
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So, I was back in the tent after four nights in a bed. The evening was still and warm. It felt good. Oh for the open road. I might well have not felt such elation, if I'd had to walk to the shower in my rain gear. As I was putting up my tent, two young guys nearby, were cooking up hamburgers on a rudimentary barbecue next to their caravan. This is guaranteed to get the juices flowing. I suspect even veggies get a pang.

Having spent part of the previous Saturday night, eating fish and chips out of the packet on a park bench, I thought I might treat myself this evening. I even put on my Saturday night shirt and set out, on foot, up the hill into the village. The Three Tuns advertised itself to be a quality restaurant, as well as a pub. Exactly what I thought I wanted. I've just checked the menu on their website. What I ate then is still available. For my main course, I ordered rack of lamb. I wasn't asked how I would like it. It was overcooked, not a sign of pinkness. Worse was, as the menu had it, it would be served with a potato gratin, something I really like. I cook it myself. My version taken from one of the inestimable, if haughty, Elizabeth David recipe books consists of thinly sliced [preferably waxy] potatoes covered in cream, with a little garlic, and nutmeg, then topped with breadcrumbs. Its finished at high temperature under the grill. That's a gratin. It's delicious. The Three Tuns version was a soggy new potato.

I was disappointed, not to say badly pissed off. We British TV viewers are indundated with programmes, apparently devoted to improving our tastes in food. Top chefs compete with each other on the small-screen, for the prize of cooking at some prestigious banquet or other. This striving for quality, evidently hadn't trickled down to Osmotherly. I complained. There was a large happy-go-lucky family group across the aisle from me, the lone diner. They were cheery, animated and talkative. I complained at first to the young girl who had served me. She had no idea what I was talking about. She fetched a slightly older girl, who was equally confounded. I then spoke to the man at the bar who had earlier served me with a pint of Guinness and taken my order. 'Why are you being so arsey,' he said.I'd drunk half a bottle of wine as well as the beer by then, so I had to take a deep breath. I explained to him what a potato gratin was and that I hadn't been asked how I would have liked the lamb [medium rare]. 'This is an expensive [could have added pretentious] restaurant, I expected better. If you were charging half the price, I wouldn't have complained'

I might have added, that I'd been eating doner kebabs, fish and chips and porridge for the last few days so you spoiled my night out.

I was charged half price for dinner, but would have preferred to have been served what I thought I was going to get and paid up in full. As I settled the bill the man at the bar told me 'The chef says that's definitely a gratin.' 'He's a c*nt then,' I thought, but didn't say.

Trouble is, I've done most of my cycle touring in France. I've eaten some indifferent meals in France, but on the whole quality and service is good and it's much better value than in UK. Some say standards in France are declining, maybe they are, but they're less likely to lie to you, or pretend they know what they're doing, when they don't. British people are reluctant to complain, it's said. True enough, when out for a celebratory meal, no-one wants to spoil the party. I'd say don't put up with pretence and poor value, whatever the circumstances.

The family group nearby, had by now, gone dead quiet. I had the impression that perhaps I had spoilt their party. [ 'We've come out for a nice meal and he [me] says it's crap'] I left the Three Tuns, the same time as them. During dinner, they'd been talking about football. They'd been to the match I'd been listening to on the radio. I heard the father tell his young son, aged about 10, he needed to work on his tackling. A red rag to a bull, but I took another deep breath. I used to coach a youth football team and parents bellowing with foam- flecked mouths, at their children, urging them to perform above their physical capabilities is one of my pet hates. 'You don't have to be Peter Reid*,' I said to the boy, 'Just enjoy the game.'Father, perhaps to his credit, finessing the barb, asked the boy if he knew who Peter Reid was. And, perhaps better at football quizzes than the game itself, he did.

I asked Dad about that afternoon's match, which Middlesbrough had lost 0-1 despite having almost all of the game and missing heaps of chances on goal. 'I don't mind them losing, as long as they're playing well,' he said. This man's a fucking half-wit after all, I thought, but breathed deeply again.

* A hard-tackling midfielder from the recent past.

It was still early when I left the Three Tuns, so I turned the corner and went for another Guinness in Osmotherly's other pub, the Queen Catherine. A short, blond man ordered his drinks before me. He was with his wife and another couple. I asked him if he was staying at the camp-site. I'd heard him speak, I knew he wasn't local. He was staying in his friends' caravan. 'Are you from Sunderland,' I asked him. He looked at me, in silent wonder, for what felt like a full minute. 'Aye, 'ow' d' ya kna?' The answer's in the question.

People from Sunderland, where-ever they may roam, are almost always called Geordies, or asked if they're from Newcastle. Local pride takes a hit. Even we Tees-siders experience similar, although people should know better. We were in North Yorkshire now and no-one from Northallerton was ever mistaken for a Geordie. Distances may be small, but speech variety is large. The atmosphere in the pub was lively and I stayed until closing time, around midnight, not, perhaps, the best preparation for the next day's ride.

Today's ride: 32 km (20 miles)
Total: 612 km (380 miles)

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