It's been a slow recovery from that new year's virus. It seems that every few steps forward are followed by a couple in the opposite direction. England's defeat at Twickenham to the Scots in the Calcutta Cup match on Saturday along with a bruised ankle haven't helped my mood, or my training, either. I have yet to cycle outside in 2023 but I have, on occasions, been turning the pedals in various parts of the world without having to leave the relative warmth of the cellar. And I have had company. I have acquired a stalker. A perpetual pursuant and constant cycling companion. Emma the ever-present bicycling bot.
Everywhere I would go Emma would emerge from the ether. Be it in California...
She materialised when I took to the mountains. She followed me up Mt. Ventoux...
...and was even with me on Mt. Etna.
I unintentionally introduced her to the delights of the Scottish midges whilst ascending the Pass of the Cattle...
...and she was with me on the A487 when I went down to south Wales.
Everywhere I went the besotted bot followed my every move. I just had to escape. It was whilst in Wales that I took my chance. We'd stopped to refuel at the Square and Compass at Penparc where, in the car park, a car boot sale was in full swing. A quick poke about produced a couple of unused inner tubes and a second-hand flux converter from a bloke called Emmett Brown, who just happened to have the most impressive car there although it didn't have much of a boot. A DeLorean.
With my booty stashed in my back pockets we were soon on our way again. About a mile further on, on a long downhill section of the A487, I put in a big effort, turned sharply left, and whilst heading in this easterly direction managed to reach 88mph. As my legs started to wilt, with my power meter showing 1.21 gigawatts, the flux converter kicked in and it was Wilts for sure as I landed in the Wiltshire village of Shrewton in 1913. Right outside the Royal Oak.
The Royal Oak had been serving thirsty folk, although probably not any arriving from the twenty-first century, since at least 1851 where it appeared in that year's census, albeit without the royal prefix, being run by Stephen Leversuch.
It continued to serve Gibbs and Mew's brews from Salisbury whilst welcoming the arrival of motorists but not, I believe, any who turned up in a DeLorean.
The landlord back in 2012 probably wished that that he'd had a time-travelling De Lorean in order to get away too. In December of that year Malcolm Levesconte, who'd been running the pub for a decade, disappeared. Nearly thirty thousand pounds from the pub's Christmas savings club had disappeared too. The Portsmouth to St. Malo ferry is hardly the fastest getaway vehicle. The money never turned up but his body did. It was recovered from the English Channel, near Dover, on Christmas Eve of that year.
Unsurprisingly a 'closed until further notice' sign appeared on the pub's door after this event, but it did briefly reopen. However, the owners, Enterprise Inns, decided to close it, permanently as it turned out, in January 2013.
Plans were submitted to demolish/convert some of the existing structure to give a new dwelling along with the building of five new homes. This was rejected but the decision was appealed and the appeal was successful. It seems that the former Royal Oak will not be standing for much longer. It may well already have gone. As the nearest pub to the site of Stonehenge it must surely have been able to have been made viable. If only there was some way to turn back time. If you know of one, please don't tell Emma or she'll follow me to 1913.
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