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Never Say Never.

It's Saturday 16th July 2000. That's right, exactly twenty-one years ago to the day. Six and a bit months earlier, sitting in the Duke of York on New Year's Eve, I had announced my intention to mark the arrival of the new millennium by attempting to qualify for, and ride in, the national 100 mile time trial championship. It's worrying just what the consumption of a few pints of Adnam's in the presence of those with elephantine memories can commit oneself to. In my embryonic cycling career I'd never ridden a '100' and had only ever completed a single '50'.

It's Saturday 16th July 2000. A couple of months earlier I had crossed the finishing line of my first ever '100'. I remember shouting "Just one more!" as the timekeeper pressed the button on his stopwatch. I now at least had a time, but would it be fast enough to get a ride in the national?

It's Saturday 16th July 2000. I'm in Fakenham, bike in the back of the car and tent pitched on the racecourse campsite. An insufficient number of faster riders had been tempted to enter the event so I was in.

It's Saturday 16th July 2000. I'm in The Bull in Fakenham for a little early evening sustenance before returning to my tent for an early night before an early rise in the morning. Not too much sustenance, mind you. After all, I've a hundred miles to pedal in the morning.

The Bull in July 2019. © Google 2021

The Bull Inn was serving beer in Bull Street (now Bridge Street) in Fakenham more than two centuries before I had bought my pint there in 2000. Seemingly, the Licence Records for the Gallow Hundred tell us that a Robert Howlett was there in 1798 but the earliest record that I've come across is in Pigot's 1830 directory for Norfolk.

Extract from Pigot's 1830 directory.

The Goulsons run the Bull until the mid 1860s. After Thomas's death in 1832 his son Robert becomes the innkeeper and when he shuffled of this mortal coil in 1858 his widow Ann took it on for a bit. She's there in 1864 with a change of initial letter...

Extract from White's 1864 directory.

...but by 1871 she's a confectioner living a little further up the street...

...and the Bull is in the hands of Thomas Baylis.

Thomas probably took over at the Bull around 1867 for the Norfolk Pubs website informs us that it was offered to let in September 1866 – Old-established Inn, doing a capital business, with excellent Stables, gig-house, Cottage and Four Acres of Land.

Apply at Messrs. Bidwell's Brewery, East Dereham –

and that the same offer was being made in July of the following year.

The pub remained a Bidwell Brewery property...

The Bull Inn c1915.

...until they were taken over by Bullards in 1924...

Waiting with my bike for the Bull to open. Post-1924.

...before passing into the hands of Watneys in 1963. By the time I visited it it had become a free house and was brewing its own ales. I didn't stay too long for this hyperathlete had an event the next morning so an early night was in order.

It's Sunday 17th July 2000. It's early. It's also cold, damp and breezy. I pedal to the event HQ, dump some stuff inside, decide it's too cold to ride in bare arms and head off to the start. At 6.24am I hear the timekeeper's "Go!" and I'm off, heading west on the A148 towards King's Lynn. Left at Hillington, through Grimston to Gayton where it was left again to the A1065. Through the Weasenhams – past the Ostrich (Now closed. Watch this space!) in All Saints and the Fox & Hounds (currently for sale) in St. Peter – and back to the start. Thirty-four miles done, just another two laps. It's really cold and miserable. By the end of the second lap I'm really cold and miserable too. In fact I almost packed it in except that the boss had given me the next day off work and somehow I felt that it'd be an abuse of his generosity if I didn't finish.

The wind was freshening and seemed to be blowing any remaining strength away with it. By the time I finished I was the last rider on the road. All those who had started after me had either caught and passed me, had given up, or both.

Somewhere on the A148 in the 2000 National 100 mile time trial championships on my only, do-it-all, bike.

"Never again!" I said as I crossed the line I'd done it, taken around fifteen minutes off my personal best into the bargain and had come 44th in a national championship. I promised myself that I'd never again ride another '100'. And I kept my word – until 2013, that is.

It's Saturday 31st August 2013. "Five, four, three, two, one. Good luck!" As I rolled away from the starting timekeeper I did wonder why I thought it had been a good idea to enter another '100'. I suppose that thirteen years is long enough to forget just how unpleasant the previous experience had been. Things had not started well with my barrel-shaped chest, or maybe it was my barrel-shaped belly, managing to destroy the zip of my skinsuit. So it was with a dozen safety pins keeping my excess adipose tissue confined that I set off for four and a bit hours of 'enjoyment'.

2013. A markedly better positon, a quicker bike, safety pins holding up well and 42 minutes off my personal best.

"Never again!"

That evening, rehydrating back in the Duke of York, I announced to those same folk with the same elephantine memories that I'd never ride another '100'. It didn't take a few pints of Adnam's to induce that utterance that evening. Despite reducing my personal best by a whopping forty-two minutes I really had not enjoyed the experience. It had been warm. Very warm. I was very glad to see Mrs. Bygone Boozer on the roadside at the halfway point to hand me up another bottle of drink. It had been noisy. Very noisy. The sound produced by passing cars on the concrete surface just seemed to be amplified within the confines of my aero helmet. And it had been windy. Very windy. I'd had to drop to the small front chainring at times on the six mile drag up the affectionately(?)-known Concrete Mountain whilst struggling to keep my speed above 14mph. The 41mph stretches with the wind on my back were no compensation. Never again? Definitely.

Buoyed by the time I managed to achieve in that '100' I thought that a new bike might be deserved. The story of the acquisition of Isaac was described in this post featuring the former Angel in Fritton. In 2016 Congleton CC stalwart Ken Norbury caught me riding Isaac – on his camera, not on his bike – passing the Edgerton Arms in Chelford. Isaac is certainly a faster bike. It's even managed to cover 25 miles at an average speed of just a little shy of 31mph, albeit with a slightly more powerful motor aboard.

Isaac passing the Edgerton Arms in Chelford in 2016 after having hit a pothole causing the bars to slip down.

Let's jump forward to 2017 when the Bull Inn started a sequence of being open, closed, open, closed, open, closed. I don't believe that it has been open since January 2019. 2017 was also the year that I started a sequence of cardiac events, possibly brought on by a nasty little Spanish lung-zapping virus, which has resulted in me being advised to severely limit the number of short races I compete in and to concentrate my efforts on the longer, and therefore less intense, '50's and '100's. Will the Bull ever open again? Will I ever ride another '100'? In reality, both seem unlikely but considering recent history, the Bull's and my own, perhaps it's a case of never say never. After all, it would be interesting to see what sort of time I could achieve on Isaac. And maybe even have another pint in Bridge Street.

Thanks to Sharon C for the 2013 photograph and to Ken Norbury for the 2016 image. Sadly Ken died the following year. The image from 2000 is copyright Kimroy Photography.

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