Double trouble at the Star Inn.
After what seemed like an eternity of absence, young Norman of the house on the hill welcomed Peter and John on a damp misty morning for a gentle ride over the Marsh. Christine offered a welcome and warming hot drink.
Our spirits were high and there was much chatter about nothing in particular as we glided past the charming little Church of St Rumwolds. It was here, only a few months ago, that John recalled an evening spent in the company of the once reviled and now - in his in own words - national treasure, Anthony Wedgwood Benn; better known to the electorate of Chesterfield as Tony.
Today's destination for lunch was to be a tea-room in Dymchurch. John reflected inwardly that this would have to be a jolly special tea room to merit the accolade of a Ragstones' refreshment stop. He was never to find out.
Somewhere near Newchurch, Peter decided to alight and walk into a sodden field to look at stones. John, who had drifted ahead, was blissfully unaware of the drama which was taking place a mere half mile behind. Realising that all was not well, he retraced the route. Corner followed corner with no sign of his companions. The possibilities began to weigh increasingly heavy on his now fevered imagination.
At last the laggards came into view. Norman leaning nonchalantly on his handlebars, Peter standing with his shoes caked in thick glutinous marsh mud, wearing the expression of a man who has attempted to climb the North Face, and not made it beyond base camp. Norman tried to ease the disappointment by telling us that there were stones in a field near his house.
Round the next bend the familiar spire of St Mary in the Marsh emerged on the horizon. This is the resting place of Edith Nesbit, who wrote The Railway Children. It will be recalled that the film adaptation of which features a young Jenny Agutter, whom John in former times had much admired. John purchased a short biography of E R Nesbit to give to Ruth, who is believed to have once met - or at least seen - Ms Agutter in a Dymchurch tea-room.
After a brief tour of the Church, and a profound discussion about rotten timber, it was noticed that the clock had moved to a point where 'elevenses' could be considered. Sadly the Star Inn would not be open till 12. It was as we prepared to leave the car park and head for Dymchurch that Norman felt flat. He - or rather his tyre - had succumbed to one of those devilish little pieces of glass that KCC Highways spray on the roads at this time of year to keep motorists safe and cyclists swearing.
A replacement inner tube was fitted, but that failed too. Now this is why John for only the second time in living memory, missed a Ragstones lunch. He simply could not avoid a pre-arranged meeting, and against all his nobler instincts, had to leave the scene and wish his companions better luck for the remainder of the day.
At the time of writing it is believed that Peter and Norman did have lunch - somewhere; and did eventually get home - sometime. Perhaps that's a story for another day.