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The Potterers Cycling Club
Pottering in Kent since 1971
The Potterers Cycling Club
Pottering in Kent since 1971
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The Potterers Club An Abridged Version (From Dave Rodd) Of The Original Book By G Lacy Hillier

Chapter 1: Three cyclists by the sea.
It was a dull dismal day at Yarmouth – the rising tide tumbling in whitecapped rollers upon the beach – a sharp, cold, gusty wind from the sea. Heavy clouds overhead and heavier clouds advancing, the sea dark and menacing beneath them. Not a day for holiday-makers. Youths in flannels and straw hats shivered in the cold, while others hurried back to their hotels or lodgings.  The week’s holiday, awaited so eagerly, was clearly not for holiday making, with every indication that it would get worse.
A number of cyclists made their way up and down the Drive; all types  - solitary, pairs, groups and gangs, in a variety of dress. Amongst these could be seen a party of three, dressed in correct touring attire – dark grey suits with Norfolk jackets. One of these was identified by those in the know as Horace Sainton, the crack racing cyclist. Oblivious to their whispered remarks, he and his companions Ferdinand Smith and John Forrester, made their way up and down the front before concluding that Norwich had more and better attractions, and so determined to make their way hence.  
As they came to this decision, the heavens opened, and donning their capes made their way out of the town towards Caister. After some miles, during which the weather became steadily worse, the sound of thunder was heard and the trio determined to find shelter. As they reached the bridge at Acle, an inn was seen and after putting their machines under shelter, they made their way indoors to the snug little parlour of the inn. The parlour was adorned with glass cases containing specimen fish, a deep fireplace and a small bar, where orders were rapidly placed and met.   
Whilst the friends gazed out of the window, contemplating the weather and the prospect of another 11 miles to Norwich, the door swung open and in stepped a man clothed in oilskins. “Ghastly weather,” he said as he removed his waterproofs, then, “Hullo, Smith” as he recognised one of the three. Ferdinand Smith introduced him as Mr Iden to the others. Iden clearly knew of Sainton’s reputation and they fell into conversation about racing. After a while, he enquired as to their intentions for the rest of the day, and when the friends admitted  they had no definite plan, he urged them to join him on his boat moored nearby, a wherry were there was plenty of room for them all to make themselves comfortable. The weather looked set to get even worse, so after a brief discussion it was agreed to avail themselves of Iden’s hospitality.  
After arranging for safe storage of the machines, Sainton, Smith and Forrester joined Iden and they made their way to the wherry, which was, as Iden had promised, a snug well-found boat with room for six. Once inside, Sainton espied Iden’s bicycle – a very neat rakish-looking Raleigh, fitted with road-racing tyres, dropped handlebars and very much a racing machine. “I thought you said you were a pottering tourist,” said Sainton. “Well,” replied Iden, “I have a fancy for all the latest improvements, as the catalogues say, and I use it when pursuing my hobby of collecting.”  “Collecting?” asked Smith. “Yes, I’m keen on moths, in fact I have rather a fine collection, nearly all my own work. The cycle enables me to get about, and the lamp is very useful for attracting the moths. I have got a lot of good specimens with it.” Iden went on to describe how he caught his specimens with a mixture of beer and brown sugar spread on tree trunks, the haunts of rare specimens, the merits of a wherry as a base, and lamented the fact that his best specimens were now stored at his rooms in town.  
Ferdinand Smith clearly knew something of the hobby, and asked many questions. Eventually Iden revealed that the prize of his collection was a Rosy Marsh, which had been found close to where they now sat. “As a matter of fact,” continued Iden, “I have not sent it up to town yet, as I wanted to show it to another collector, who did not believe me.” Iden then produced a small collecting case, carefully unwrapped it and showed his capture, reposing in solitary state within. It had glossy gray wings with a tinge of red and whitish brown underneath. “Never been seen in Norfolk before, and very rare anywhere in England. I shall come back next May and try to find the caterpillar.”
The conversation turned to cycling, and Iden mentioned several places on the Continent that could be best visited by bicycle. After further discussion about the merits of the Broads as a holiday resort, and a game of cards, it was time for bed. As they drifted off to sleep, the sound of the rain pattering on the roof was all that could be heard.
Next morning, the rain had not ceased, the roads were wet and muddy, and the fields veiled in mist. The four strolled down to the inn in their waterproofs, where Iden found a letter advising him that his friends would not be able to join him until later in the week. “Why not spend two or three days with me?” he asked. “Think it over while I stroll down to the village. There’s no fun in riding in weather like this.” After Iden departed, the trio talked it over. “I don’t mind riding in the rain if I’m in reach of home,” said Sainton, “but there’s no fun in going to bed in the middle of the afternoon while one’s clothes dry out. I think we’d better stay.” After a brief discussion, the three friends agreed. On Iden’s return they set off in the wherry for Potter Heigham for some fishing, and to keep an eye out for the fellow collector, so that Iden could display his prize capture.  
And so the days passed. The weather slowly improved. The doubter was seen on the second day and duly impressed, the wherry made its way up river, with various excursions until it was time to return to Acle. Iden pressed the friends to stay over the coming weekend, as he would still have room after his own friends arrived, but as they all had business to attend to, Sainton thanked their host and said that they would have to start for home on the Saturday.
As they packed their things, Iden approached Smith with a small package. “This is a rare nocturnal beetle, which may come to harm in the damp. I’ve packed it carefully in cotton wool. Would you mind taking this with you, and I’ll call for it when I return?”
“Certainly,” said Ferdinand, and rolled it up in his bundle of clothing. The three then collected their bicycle from the inn, and after a farewell drink with Iden, set off in the direction of Norwich. They reverted to their original plan to spend the night in the Maid’s Head, rose early on the Sunday morning and made their way back to town vis Wymondham and Newmarket, taking advantage of a following wind.
Chapter 2: The Potterers’ Cycling Club
The Club met at Sainton’s rooms. This was a large modern flat with spacious rooms, very comfortably furnished and decorated with various cycling prints, photographs and an original drawing from Cycling. The Potterers’ Club was not a formal body; no one could apply for election, there were no rules, no programme of events, not affiliated to the National Cyclists Union, in fact it was a group of Sainton’s friends. They joked that it was necessary to put in a number of qualifying runs to maintain membership, and one Saturday they rode down to Frensham Ponds where they ran into a cycling journalist, whom they teased with this fiction. Membership grew by recommendation; and thus reached the grand total of twenty members by its fifth anniversary.
On this occasion, most of the members were present, when a member proposed one Ripton, and another potential was rejected as unsuitable. After a song or two to piano accompaniment, Ferdinand Smith read a story of his own composition. Forrester could not stand Smith’s stories, but it was an unwritten rule that any member could offer criticism of another’s efforts, and it was accepted that this could be constructive. At the conclusion of the story, Forrester did indeed state that he had never heard such rubbish, whereupon after some discussion it was agreed that Smith would submit a story more to Forrester’s liking at the next meeting. Smith retorted that Forrester’s ideal story would consist of a list of public house and the drinks consumed therein. Sainton suggested that Smith should try and introduce a cycling theme to his next story. The evening then passed in the usual fashion before the clubmen eventually dispersed.  
Chapter 3: Mr John Shap at work
John Shap lived in a neat little house in Brixton with his wife. He was sat reading the paper when he suddenly exclaimed, “Hullo, here’s another of them!” The paper contained a report of a jewel robbery, committed at the house of Mr Vincent Chester M.P. The jewellery, belonging to Mrs. Chester was valued at £6000. The settings were later found in a ditch some 5 miles away, but the stones had all been removed.
After some discussion about the likelihood of such a robbery being committed at their own home, Shap said to his wife, “The only thing worth stealing here are my fishing rods. I’m going out for a bit. Walker thinks he can get me some fishing down Newbury way.” Shap sauntered out of the house, and then hastened to catch a tramcar.  The burglary was of interest because it formed the latest in a series of such robberies, occurring at large houses up and down the country. The common feature was the removal of the precious stones and discarding of the settings. There was no clue as to the perpetrators. John Shap was in fact a private detective, partner in an agency, and his wife had very little idea what he was doing when he went away on one of his ‘fishing trips’. His great success had been when, posing as an assistant butler, he had uncovered a fraud by the Head Butler who had been persistently diverting his employer’s property to his own ends. Immediately prior to the latest burglary, Shap had been on a fishing trip in the vicinity of an earlier theft and had obtained some useful information, although the firm had not been employed in the case.
Ex-Inspector Lanchester, head of the agency, was pleased to see him. Mr Vincent Chester had that day consulted him in the matter of the burglary and Lanchester promised to send down a ventilation expert to examine the premises. “Bother the ventilation!” exclaimed the M.P. “Quite so,” retorted Lanchester, but it would be better to send my man under cover. We find that gets better results.”  
Shap, under the name Walker visited Mr Chester’s house The Larches, and stayed for a week, dividing his time between the ventilation and fishing. He spent much time wandering about the grounds, and engaged the gardener in conversation, seemingly in ignorance of the jewel robbery. “How do you think they got in?” he asked the gardener. “Well he didn’t come through the gates, and there’s dogs in several places in the grounds. Perhaps he flew!” Carrying his fishing tackle as a disguise, Shap’s explorations confirmed the dogs’ presence, and as he reached the herb garden his attention was drawn to a fruit tree whose branches overhung the wall. The whole area was secluded and made more so by several large bushes. He examined a low brick wall, but showing no sign that he was in any way interested in what he found. Gradually, he worked his way round to the outside gate and made his way along the line of the garden wall until he found a wide ditch and sat down in the grass to think.
After taking in the general landscape, Shap followed the ditch until he found a place where it could be crossed. Then, using his bait tin as a distraction, he crawled along the path to a point where the tree could be seen over the wall.  Examining the ground around the ditch, he discovered a piece of fencing that seemed to have been used to cross the ditch, and using this he crossed to the wall and examined it with a view to climbing it. Finally, he made his way to the river to commence fishing in earnest, noting on his way where a piece of fence had been removed. During the morning, as he waited for the fish to bite, he made the acquaintance of a keeper and took his refreshment in the village inn, before returning to The Larches for lunch. He seemed pleased with his morning’s work, although the half-dozen roach in his basket hardly justified his mood.
Dave Rodd
usque ad mortem bibendum
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