For the second leg of the South Downs Way Odyssey our cosy trio was augmented by two new ramblers, Gilbert and George. It was all a bit Enid Blyton, what with the police, the pork pies and the bump in the night, not to mention the lickiness of Finty. But let me start at the beginning. Of course, this was the weekend of the Great Monsoon so Jeremy, Brad, Gilbert and George and I were all kitted out in gagoules, waterproof trousers and shower caps. George was showing off in a voluminous black cape but the South Downs Way rambling veterans among us took this flamboyancy to be simply nerves and didn’t make a fuss. The weekend began back at Buriton at the end point of leg one so naturally, the first point on the agenda was Jeremy’s under-carriage. Was it healed? Had he brought his trusty Germolene, just in case? Jeremy informed us all that he was wearing seamless underpants this time so there would be no chafing of his vitals. ‘Hurrah’, we all shouted and off we went. Click, click, click went our Nordic walking poles as we strode up the lane. We’d barely got onto the Downs before I’d spied a pair of stripy boxer shorts in the middle of the path and then, a police car came trundling up alongside us. Naturally, I flagged it down and demanded to know what was going on. They hadn’t come to investigate the errant knickers but were looking for people using the South Downs Way in the ‘wrong way’. I took this to mean ‘doggers’ but no, actually, they were referring to dirt bikes and twockers. I told them I would be vigilant for twockers and also took the opportunity to alert them to the underpants but they just laughed and said underpants were not on their ‘things to do today’ list. And so we carried on; the day was a bit drizzly but we had some interesting banter – like whether Brad being forced out of his Lake District boarding school on Sunday afternoons in the driving rain had affected his mind (we’ll be observing him over time), and whether our eyeballs are the same size now as they were when we were born (my theory is that an animal’s eyes are disproportionate to the rest of its face so that its mother continues to feed it – and the rest of our face catches up later – the others said I was talking crap). We didn’t see many other walkers but there were plenty of mountain bikers – whizzing past splattered with huge dollops of chalky mud. This part of the walk was much more open that the first leg, taking us through huge fields of rape and with (misty) views out towards the sea and surrounding downland. At the end of the first day, Gilbert had a hole in his boot and Brad’s dicky knee was playing up but with a fabulous new large-scale waterproof map, courtesy of Gilbert and George, we hadn’t got lost, been shouted at by dog-hating girl-racers and there’d been no rows either about the route although I did have to take Gilbert and George to one side and recite the Hinckley Ramblers’ mantra ‘ye shall only ever walk as fast as the slowest person’ to stop them going rogue and forming a splinter cell. That afternoon, after some delicious pork pie and mustard in a local hostelry, we arrived at Sunnyside cottage in the charming village of Cocking which was run by a lady in a cardigan. She took one look at Finty’s dirty bottom and slung Brad and Jeremy in the garden room then escorted the rest of us upstairs where there was one double and one twin room. There was a bit of kerfuffle on the landing, what with all the bags and the wet things and somehow Gilbert got escorted into the twin by Mrs Cardigan leaving George and I to the double. Faced with the prospect of me and a big bed, George had an attack of the vapours but after Mrs Cardigan had gone off to make some buns, we swapped over and harmony was restored. That evening, after more than a few bottles of red wine, we had a heated debate about where Jamie Oliver got his chops from, and if Gareth Williams’ impossibly neat hair and overly full bottom lip were critical clues to his ugly demise locked in a travel bag. In the night, I got up to wet my tuppence and got lost in between the bed and the ensuite. I couldn’t find the light for the life of me and was fumbling around for 10 minutes before I realised the bathroom was on the other side of the room and I’d been trying to get into the wardrobe. Over a hearty breakfast of eggs and black pudding we discussed another bedroom incident from the previous evening. While treating myself to a post-perambulation mini-pedicure, I’d drizzled my No 7 Vixen nail varnish onto Mrs Cardigan’s extremely combustible eiderdown. Brad suggested I attack it with remover but Jeremy, who, it has to be said, is a chemistry genius, suggested it might dissolve the fabric and we’d end up with a ruddy great hole. I elected to throw a scatter cushion over my stain and forget about it. We said goodbye to Mrs Cardigan and strode out into a deluge of Biblical proportions. Torrents nay, rivers of chalky mud flowed off the Downs and within about half an hour 3/5 of us had sodden feet. Brad developed a blister and Gilbert’s hair was a real mess. Only George remained dry and not a little smug under his cape. But then, at about 2pm, the rain stopped, the sun came out and we had a moment of bliss on some Bronze Age burial mounds. Soon after that, we ambled into Amberley and the end of our rain sodden ramble. We had a group hug; Jeremy stripped down to his underpants for no real reason and a couple of us cried. Roll on leg 3.