READERS will recognise the phenomenon. An invitation arrives for a function a few months ahead which will raise money for a worthy local cause and sounds quite fun. The challenge from The ARK Project at Basingstoke hospital was to ride 20 miles on a Sunday morning through the rolling North Hampshire countryside.
My wife Aurelia was also consulted and she pronounced herself game for a spin on the tandem so, as many other Gaz-ette readers did, we agreed to take part.
We were woken early on the day of The ARK Fun Ride by the torrential rain beating down on the roof.
Should we pull out? Certainly we would have had a plausible excuse, but I decided it was time for leadership and our tandem had already been taken from our home to Basingstoke in preparation for the start of the race. And we set out on the road.
En-route we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stopped off in Wootton-St-Lawrence for a cup of coffee.We were worried that the rest of the riders might assume, as the local MP, I might know the route and would follow us, confronting our host with a sizeable catering problem;but such was the ferocity of the rain that you couldn't see the person in front of you. Duly refreshed, we then cycled back to the Hospital to be congratulated on our stamina.
We confessed to some economy of route and eventually ended up in the Postgraduate Centre for a drink and a sausage.
Many of the other riders worked at the hospital and there was concern at reports in The Gazette about the threat hanging over the hospital. What was the local MP to do about it?
I made my position clear. Tony Blair and Frank Dobson had visited the hospital a few months ago, ostensibly to give it more money. Now reductions in services seemed inevitable. As I saw it, it was obviously my duty to discourage the Prime Minister from visiting any more hospitals in my constituency.