Millstone boarded the nine o' clock train at Ashford Station and with considerable relief found a space to put his bicycle. The journey to Sandwich was uneventful apart from a portly man sitting across the carrriage who felt it necessary to deliver a productive cough at infuriatingly regular intervals, while tapping on a hand held electronic device. No one appeared sufficently interested in his transmissions to bother to reply.
Familiar names glided by the carriage window, Westenhanger, Sandling, Folkestone, Dover, Deal. The ticket lady assured Millstone in an unexpectedly broad Glaswegian brogue that arrival in Sandwich would be on schedule and that provided he did not try to board with his bicycle at Charing Cross in the rush hour he should generally be relaxed about finding somewhere to put it on the train.
Millstone dozed but woke just in time to unfasten his bike and jump off as the train rumbled on to journey's end in Ramsgate.
The good companions - Ruth and Robert - soon rode into view at Sandwich station car park and after a brief route planning conference the three of us sped off to explore the venue of the 2011 British Open Golf Championship - Royal St George's Golf Club.
Like most similar exclusive establishments, the club does not encourage incursions by the riff-raff element, even Ragstones. We decide however to proceed, and risk the consequences. A convenient and well tarmac'd road snakes through the course, past familiar (to those who followed the competition on television) landmarks like quaint little thatched cabins, and the strategically placed and fiendishly deep bunkers. We are struck by the enormity of the now deserted public stands which surround the 18th green, and elsewhere across the course.
Threading our way through convoys of lorries bearing tons of dismantled scaffolding we marvel at the amount of money which such occasions generate. Millstone decided that his next life would be dedicated to achieving stardom in the world of international golf.
Not many people know that a public footpath crosses the course. In nine years time, when Sandwich next hosts the Open, we'll get in free.
Robert now lead us along a five mile coastal track made from stones from which diamonds would have cowered in terror. After several near miss catastrophes, a smooth concrete surface takes us into delightful Deal, where liquid refreshments are taken at a cafe overlooking the sea and the pier.
Out of Deal our route is through Gt Mongeham (Mungham, Munch'em, Moonjum?) and thence to Northbourne, where there is a brief debate about the cuisine at the Hare and Hounds. No definitive conclusion, so on to Eastry and a mightily warm welcome from landlady Joan at the Five Bells, and a fine lunch of chicken with all the trimmings, apple pie and peach melba.
Robert is eventually roused from a deep post prandial slumber. A gentle, mostly downhill ride takes us back to Sandwich railway station. Time to bid farewell to Ruth and Robert with thanks for a most enjoyable ride , and for Millstone the train back to Ashford.
A delightful ride, great company, good food. Thank you Ruth and Robert. Next week the Blue Anchor at Brabourne.
PS: A small prize will be awarded to the first person who identifies (via email to Millstone) the location of the picture accompanying this blog (there is a clue in the blog).