“When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the Shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail”
It is a far cry from the heat of a summer day to the grey cold of mid-winter, but I am going to switch over in this page to December from the July of the last page. Jack and I lived close to each other, and Jack had a tandem. One day we had an experimental run, and, as we ‘nicked’ together admirably, the tandem became our regular weekend means of travel, ‘We Are Seven’ runs, hard and long as they sometimes are, became mere potters to Jack and I, and after a time we decided to turn out on our own, and show them all what we could do. Ambition makes fools – I would hardly say fools, though we became commonly known as such afterwards, but – well, after an unusually slow Sunday with the boys, we revolted, and arranged for ourselves the week after, a really long ride: start 4.30am – in December!
The Sunday was 11 December, 1927. Now anyone with a good memory will remember December, 1927 as being a month of intense cold, snow, ice and blizzards culminating in the big snowstorms that laid up villages in the south of England for over a week.
At 4.30am we started, lamp-lit, cold and half awake. It was a glorious morning, calm and frosty, with a sky studded with stars. Ere we had gone far, a breeze sprang up in our favour, and so easy did the going become, that Jack, on the rear of the machine, actually went to sleep, though still pedalling at a great speed.
From Warrington to Chester, the machine seemed to leap along of its own accord; we passed through the City at 6.25am having covered the 38 miles in five minutes under two hours. It was the same on the Holyhead road, and mile after mile slid by, hill after hill dropped behind under our flying wheels, Jack alternating between dozing and sleepily enquiring the name of the last village. Ere the grey dawn had penetrated the night sufficiently for us to put our lamps out, we had reached the long descent into Holywell, and were pedalling for all we were worth into the little, deserted town.
The heavy climb onto the hills again was like child’s play that morning, and the long, ribbon-like road that followed seemed to swing into view and rush forward to meet us. The hardest task was steering, for there was no fear of oncoming traffic, and we sped round bends at an alarming angle, more than once losing the pedals (fixed gear) on the down gradients. Despite all the vigorous pedalling, my hands and feet were like lumps of lead, even though I had two pairs of gloves and two pairs of stockings on. Jack was not much warmer either.