The day was set to be a success. Everybody was punctual and the weather looked promising at Charing X. A quick 45 minutes later, the train pulled up in Tonbridge and the rain had just begun. This was probably thanks to Harry II’s wireless rain-dance in London at 10:27am. Deeja peeped out from beneath her rice paddy field hat and her adamant expression made it clear that even torrential rain would not hold us back this day, not when we’d come ‘this far‘.

Good thing too, because torrential rain is exactly what we got after hiring our bikes and being told by the funny bike dudes that we couldn’t have picked a worse day to do this ride.

Taj and I hadn’t ridden a bike for years. Exercise bikes do not count because they just don’t and they are stationary. But it is true; you never do forget how to ride a bike. The riding was fun and setting off in the downpour was unbelievably enjoyable. Ignoring Cautious Cat’s inner instinct telling her it was better to head back and wait, we carried on with the rain beating down on us and our dodgy assortment of raincoats. With no real fear of electrocution we bounded down paths, through woods, up hills and down them… OK, so we bounded down and sometimes hiked up- except for Expert Cat, though, who breezed through!

We stopped off to have lunch by the prophesized field of cows, which were stunningly beautiful, all white and looked obviously healthy, even to the un-farmer. One appeared to be rather interested in our paddy field girl who held out a banana for it. It soon transpired that it thought I was a luscious piece of walking grass- compliments to my giant green raincoat- and remained by the fence for quite some time. It was gruffly called back to the main grazing area by another cow, who sounded angry and turned on the ghastly waterworks.

Around this point, upon seeing a well groomed and clearly male dude cycle by and say ‘Hi! : ) ‘, as all of friendly Tonbridge does, with splashes of mud on his face [no really, how would that happen unless somebody was burning rubber in front of him and spraying up the mud directly into his face?] and Deeja thought that he was a she.

‘She’s more covered [in mud] than us!’

He heard. We are yet to calculate how this happened and hope he thought she was talking about one of us and not him. Deeja is yet to agree that it was, in fact a male. Dude was seen riding further up, cycling with his head down.

We carried on because Cold Cat was turning blue.  We saw pretty scenes masked through the trees, a giant water lily pond, running water- muddy brown- that sounded sublime and beams of sunlight shining down and glorifying a coca-cola can to magical status.

Once we arrived at Penshurst Castle, the sun broke out and we inadvertently raised the decibel level in the beautiful Quaintways teahouse, where we had tea, coffee and hot hot scones. We had come in as quietly as mice but by the end we were speaking at London volume. I officially adore teahouses. Particularly those that sell preserves without Scotch.

The way back was wonderful! With the raincoats tied around our waists, the sun on our backs and the wind in our hair and hijaabs, we freelanced downhill under the blue blue sky. We saw the paddy field girl again, stood gazing over her ongoing hard day of work.

Taj was calling out to us from behind that she was feeling incredibly sore. We couldn’t hear her but, much to her dismay, she discovered a couple were riding right behind her who heard her very well. We know this because we saw them laughing. Don’t worry, Taj, they struggled up the rest of that hill because of it.

Apparently, my bouts of cycling on the exercise bike has kept me fitter than I knew because at the end of 12 miles, I still didn’t feel tired. Having said that, at one point, I did manage to gracefully lower myself into a bush of nettles as I was staring at it too hard. This concluded in three bruises and me being entangled in the bars of the bike. ‘Toobaa, I nearly crashed into you from behind!‘ ‘Oh, really? Look at those nettles…’ There isn’t much you can do on your way down. Just watch. *flump* Oh, this feels quite soft. Then the stinging of the nettles seeps in. Commando Cat found some anti-nettle-dock (I’m too tired to google their proper name) leaves with holes in but they sufficed, alhamdulillah.

We also managed to conquer our fear of dogs. Pitbulls, poodlike things and baby-eating dogs approached us menacingly on several occasions as we sprawled on the grass drying off. Then. Much to the amusement of a passer-by, Proper Cat part-demonstrated, to us three Brownies, the correct way to use a hole in the floor. We are yet to report on whether these means are efficient or not, but we suspect and hope that they are.

We went on to impress the bike shop dudes with our completed mission. The day ended with four muddy girls browsing through the Monsoon sale. We trudged home in our browned trousers and sprayed backs (except mine, muwahah! The giant tree raincoat prevails!) feeling rather satisfied that we had finally done it. Peace at last : )

Thank you. So much. I would do this again! And again! I couldn’t have imagined a better group. And Ummi loves the ‘chutney’  from the ‘English Teahouse’!

The most amazing picture is yet to be added and may possibly may never be. But know that it exists. (Paddy Field Girl- now added).

[1- Lime does cure the throbbing of a headache but the inner ache remains and can be nauseating. Bits of lime will also be stuck to your forehead. 2- Calamine lotion does zilch for nettle stings. 3- In the absence of anti-nettle-dock leaves, Garnier Fructis Body Cocoon + Tibet Snow + Oil of Olay works great on nettle stings. 4- The one thing on the list that you decided not to bring is the one thing that you will need.]