It started on Thursday evening, when I met jm_horse for a cheeky Pizza Express before heading to the South Bank Centre to see William Boyd talk about his newly-released James Bond novel, Solo. Howard, who was coming up from Dorset, joined us a few minutes in. I was delighted to learn that Boyd and his friends used to read Bond aloud to each other in the dormitory at boarding-school, because I used to read it to my friends at my boarding-school. Afterwards we queued for signings, then sat over coffee overlooking the river while I reflected that there's still time for me to become the first woman to write an official Bond novel...
The weekend itself was spent in Presteigne, 'Gateway to Wales', with the London Advanced Motorcyclists. We were to gather at the southbound Wisley services on Friday morning, around forty of us, and ride to Wales in pre-assigned groups by routes of our own planning.
My first bit of excitement occurred at the meeting point, when I found myself queuing to pay for my petrol behind Sandi Toksvig. I hoped there would be an opportunity for witty banter, but, alas, no, though I did tap her on the shoulder to point out that one of the cashiers was free.
Of Howard's and my group of five, one didn't show and two were two-up on a big Kawasaki, so we made a tight little unit of three bikes. It turned out that my quick glance at Google Maps at work on Thursday was the closest thing to route planning any of us had done, and I'd only thought as far ahead as lunch.
I hate leading, especially leading strangers, but at least I got my bit over with right at the start, and the couple we were riding with were pleasant, easygoing company. My route took us into the Cotswolds, along roads I ride every year for the Air Tattoo and always mean to visit when they're not jammed with airshow traffic, ending with sandwiches at Kemble Airfield. It all worked, and I was pleased and relieved.
Afterwards we followed a sat-nav on Shortest Route, which is never my favourite thing. True to form, we ended up turning our bikes round on a muddy single track when we met a herd of cows coming the other way. Howard took over the lead position soon after this, bringing us safely to our destination with a combination of sat-nav and actual nav. At the hotel we were reunited with the other members of the party and enjoyed a delicious dinner. (My choices for each of the two nights we stayed: fish, fish, pudding.)