I try to get out on the bike most days and I especially like the company on CTC rides on two days a week but it came as a shock when an e-mail came through asking as there was nobody else in the world available could I lead a ride.
I mentioned this to Mrs B who reminded me that I would be following another great leader of men from our village namely Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery and that my only earlier attempt at leadership resulted in expulsion from the cubs. I was chosen to lead the pack to church parade and took home the two piece troupe standard. On the Sunday morning I was on my way to the scout hall through the park where my mates were playing football, the temptation was too great and it saw me join in with the two-part standard set up as goal posts, a very irate Arkela appeared and my scouting career was over.
Thinking I should not let one failure deter me and after fifty years the scars had healed so I decided to give it some further thought. Preparation is everything and attention to detail pays dividends so how should I approach my second chance as a leader of men.
Credibility was the first issue and In case I should be challenged I sent Mrs B to look for my cycling proficiency test certificate and my first aid certificate but all that could be found was my 15m breast stroke certificate from Clacton Pier which unless I took a wrong turn would not carry much weight.
I was desperately trying to remember what nuances other leaders used to control their flock. Would I get a leaders arm band, should I get riders to sign a disclaimer and what paperwork would I need. Would I need a CRB check. Should I take a copy of the highway code in case of disagreement with motorists and should I carry a first aid kit and defibrillator. Do I need to inspect bikes as roadworthy and check repair kits.
Mrs B thought I was being overly cautious and a disclaimer was only necessary for under 18s or from a carer if over 65 and my idea of a disaster management plan and excel spreadsheet on my i-phone with name, next of kin and blood group was probably overkill.
Next for scrutiny would be the ride itself. I would need my Garmin GPS with the route and perhaps one backup unit as well as a paper map plus a spare in case I lose it. Should I do a recce of the ride to check the cafe for coffee and cake and scrutinise the pub menu. If the wine list is not up to scratch I can forget ever being asked again.
I need to bone up on the command language, car up, car down, clear right, car left, single file gentlemen please, stopping, and that masonic signal of three fingers behind the back for an obstruction ahead. I also don’t have one of those rear view mirrors to connect to my glasses that the experienced cyclists don. My other quandary was how I should treat my troops. The last ride leader took a tough approach and asked for parental contact details of two riders at lunch as their behaviour was not acceptable overtaking the ride leader and a “best rider” was named at lunch for courtesy to other road users.
Prior to the start I thought we could gather in a huddle and I could give a pep talk followed by high fives all round but Mrs B thought I might be better just counting how many riders I had starting and trying to get roughly the same number back to the finish.
So my acceptance of the honour of ride leader was confirmed. On the morning of the ride an early start to check the weather forecast and traffic news before allowing myself an extra half hour to reach the meeting point, I had put the support car on standby and waited to see if anyone would turn up for the ride.
Seven brave souls appeared, well six actually, number seven caught up after half a mile, he was late and I was not sure if I should let him join but he said he could supply a letter of apology next week so my compassionate side shone through.
The sun was shining and It was all going well, I got to the coffee stop without incident and began to relax but my leadership career was stopped dead as we pulled into the pub car park for the lunch stop to find the Half Moon And Spread Eagle at Micheldever shut on a Thursday lunchtime. Questions were asked, did you phone the pub? No, I did not have that task on my excel spreadsheet.
Mrs B reckons they will forgive me, eventually, but all I could see was Arkela striding into the park all those years ago. Perhaps I am not cut out for the high office of ride leader.
I think Montys title as the only great leader of men from our village is safe for now.