Sunday morning did not start well.
The pup had a restless night with indigestion, and Sir woke with one of His bad migraines. Sir made a brave attempt at letting me snuggle, but He looked so pale and sick that my heart wasn't in it - so I trotted off to make Him a constitutional mug of tea, then sat mournfully at the side of the bed whilst He used it to wash down some serious pharmaceutical relief.
Luckily, the drugs kicked in after a while and, combined with a little bit of puppy-massage, He started to feel a bit better. But it was genuinely upsetting to see Him in so much discomfort - and I was anxious to make sure that the rest of the day would be a gentle one, with minimum demands from His dog...!
Packing was an understandably quiet affair - then we checked out and headed down to the bike.
The original idea was to head home via Birmingham, were we had planned to trot the pup around the monthly Fetish Market. Getting out of Manchester proved as confusing as getting in, however, and we soon got quite lost bumbling through some of the most run-down suburbs that you could imagine. I've never seen so many empty shops and derelict buildings, and it was truly sad to see such a magnificent city fallen on such hard times.
All that dereliction also meant that we could not find a single cafe or greasy spoon that was open for breakfast!
It was when we rode past Stockport Town Hall that we realised we might be heading East instead of South. But by then we had seen roadsigns suggesting that Buxton was only another 20 miles, so we both agreed to keep heading that way in the hope we might find somewhere nice to stop out in the country.
We finally found the perfect little Stocks Cafe and Bistro, in the market place of Chapel en le Frith. The place was filled with cyclists and locals, which is always a good sign of hearty food. Their menu might not have matched the high culinary art of 1847, but their cheese and mushroom filled Derbyshire Oatcakes, salad and chips were exactly what a hungry Man and His dog needed!
One of the clients was a delightfully shambolic old lady who must have been 90 if she was a day (I'm guessing she was a regular, from the way the owner and his son brought out her roast dinner without her having to order). I noticed her peering at us through-out her carefully picked-over meal - then, once she was done, she shuffled painfully through the tables towards us (nobbled hands grasping her cane, and watery eyes peering out from owl-like glasses, covered in fingerprints from where she kept pushing them back up her nose)...
'I hope you don't think I'm rude young man, but I've been watching you and had to ask' she said. 'That chain around your neck - I know it's not a ceremonial mayoral chain, but I had to know what it is and why you are wearing it?'
I looked helplessly at Sir: what could I say that wouldn't offend or completely confuse this dear old thing?
Sir smiled sweetly and replied 'Ah, no - it's more to do with ownership...'
'Oh. Well. I certainly wouldn't know anything about that!' was the peevish reply. Then she shuffled out, muttering away to herself - whilst everyone in the cafe suddenly found something fascinating on their plate or the wall - anywhere else but us...
Finally fed and watered, we then headed on down the road into Buxton. Matlock was calling, so we didn't stay long - but we still found time to make a sweeping tour of the town, and agreed that it would be a nice place to come back to at some point in the future.
From Buxton we headed out towards Matlock Bath. The ride was amazing, with long sweeping roads that swooped over the tops of the peaks, then skittered down into steep tree-arched dales - the twisting roads following the sinuous path carved by white flowing rivers that filled the air with noise and rainbows, then slowly widening out into long lazy ribbons that led through flat bottomed valleys, the glistening river lazily meandering beside us through endless fields of yellow rape.
It being a Sunday, the riverside street in the centre of Matlock was heaving with bikers - so we stopped for a long stroll and ogle at all the chrome and leather on display (although I must ask: why do straight bikers wear their leathers so loose?! flaccid leather slung beneath beer bellies and draped over sagging arses is really not a good look. It can't be particularly protective either...! Cummon guys - it's not that hard getting your gear made-to-measure so that it fits properly and does the job it was intended to do. It would also save the delicate constitutions of gear-perverts like me...)
It was a brilliantly unexpected day of perfect riding: wonderful weather, incredible scenery and the heart-swelling pleasure of being in my Man's company. And all of it all the better for being utterly unplanned.
There was a downside though. As we left Matlock, Sir had to point out that it was already 6:30pm, and so it was rather unlikely we would cover the 200 odd miles to the Fetish Market in time before it closed at 8pm...
Shamefully, I didn't really care - and had to confess 'I already have all I could want Sir - here in my arms' (as I gave Him an enormous squeeze that threatened to break a rib...)
The ride home on the motorway was mostly uneventful (besides the usual activities of trying to catch sight of our reflection in the sides of tankers, waving at kids in backseats, and barking at Sir to chase any potential eye-candy on bikes) - although we did make a nice long stop-over for tea and danish at a Hopwood Park Services on the M42.
I knew that Sir hadn't seen His man for a week or more, so I didn't stay long once we got back to Bristol - just long enough to pick up my civvies, and to bend a sad neck as He unlocked my collar and returned it to its peg in His playroom, ready for the next time we could play.
All told, we rode over 400 miles in four days. Sure, I was a bit saddle sore at work on Monday, but I can honestly say I couldn't have asked for a better time.
Thank you Sir! It is a wonderful honour to be with you: Your biker-boy and pillion-pup.