25 May - Almondsbury
It is 3 weeks since my return. Lovely to be home with Jessica and Daniel and to be on the receiving end of warm welcomes from numerous well-wishers and, in the past few days, even enjoying warm weather.
The homecoming event organised by The Leprosy Mission on 15 May was extremely enjoyable: family (including my father who had come all the way from Cyprus), friends, work colleagues, MP, TLM supporters and staff (a couple coming 150 miles from Peterborough!), all gathered at the top of the steps leading to the church under the lych gate upon which hung a welcome home banner. Photos by the Bristol Evening Post , which paper did a nicely-written article (thanks, Lynne) the following week: front page headline and 2-page spread inside (just one thing: the mountain range pic was in Iran, not Nepal). My elder brother, Rick, filmed the proceedings, which should end up on my website at some point.
After the photo call, a slow wend to the Old School Hall for the serious business of cake cutting and eating, pre-fixed by speeches from Bill, the local TLM guy, me, then Steve, who was my MP when I left, but who said now needed a passport to come into Almondsbury as a result of the boundaries having been moved.
The cake was great fun: decorated as a wheel, complete with valve - accurately depicting the thin ones as on my bike, not the more common fat, car-sized ones. Surrounding the cake were loads of little cup cakes, each decorated with a different flag of the countries I had passed through on my travels!!
As well as all of the above, I was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and was delighted to have a slide show projected onto a wall of the hall with a selection of my trip pics.
I'd like to say a big thank you to The Leprosy Mission for the whole event; as well as the generous coverage on their website; also for the press releases they organised, from which I have spent my time these last couple of weeks being interviewed by various arms of the media who took up the cudgels of the story to give me my 15 minutes of fame. As a result of the homecoming event and the media publicity I know that donations have been received by, and subscriptions set up for, TLM, which is heart-warming for me and makes everything worthwhile.
As for media coverage, I have put all the links I have (mostly found by googling in my name) on the Media page of this website. I even made a national newspaper (3 inches in The Sun! page 23, 19 May) and a Dutch online article. I shall also be in Woman's Own in the 14 June issue. Other media have included an interview on the Will Harvey Show on GLOSSFM (12 May), which I shall in due course be able to put on the website (no idea what it sounded like, but it was good fun doing it) and various Christian publications and radio (UCB - waiting to hear when this will be aired). During the busiest time for media phone calls I came down with a bout of laryngitis for three days! Pretty difficult to whisper loudly enough down the phone for the reporter to understand he didn't have the wrong number and was being subjected to a heavy-breather caller!
Whilst I was away the Community Shop down in the village opened its doors. There has not been a shop in the village for about 8 years and so last year's opening of this wonderful addition to the life of the village is fantastic. I worked it in last Saturday and have been walking to it most days since being back home. It is vital to have such an amenity in any community, not only for the convenience of shopping locally, but for the social benefits that accompany such spontaneous meeting places.
There is so much still that I could say, but shall give you a break for the time being. Thanks for the numerous welcome home messages. And additional apologies to all who sent emails to email@example.com and have only now received a reply; I had no idea people were emailing to this address, as I had created it solely to gain additional space on picasa for more photos and suddenly, when I just happened to go into the mailbox, there were a load of messages! I was wondering why I had not heard from some of you!!
BTW, if anyone has any photos of my arrival home on the 2nd and/or of the homecoming event on the 15th, please could I have e-copies to put on my webite, cos , funnily enough, I didn't get a chance to take many myself on those days! :-) Thanks.
1 June - Almondsbury
Last Wednesday, my son drove Raven and me to Bridgwater for a well-deserved service (the one and only one on my trip having been a splendid one in Dubai, after which she looked so gleamingly brand new that I hardly recognised her). She ended up with 2 new tyres, new brake and gear cables, new rear brake pads, back light securely re-mounted. And that was all. Not bad, I thought. The bike mechanic and I discussed the state of the chain, which, we both agreed, was OK. I had a quick lesson in removing links, but thought I didn't really need to know this, as I'd most likely just go along to a bike shop if such was needed. Hmmm ....
Having loitered around Bridgwater town centre for a couple of, surprisingly pleasant, hours, I collected Raven and set off about 1.20pm to cycle the 50 miles back home. A few miles up the road - and my chain came off. Hmmm .... Having replaced it, I continued home. On Friday afternoon, I finally got down to tightening the chain - and couldn't! There was too much slack in it! After phoning my cycle shop and being told that now was the time to take out a link, I had no choice but to try it myself, as I needed to have Raven roadworthy for the weekend. After practicing on a small length of chain, I took the bull by the horns, managed to open a link and remove the chain, taking the opportunity to clean it thoroughly, before reconnecting it on the bike. There was a bit of trouble finding the optimum position loose enough to relink it, but, finally, hey, presto, it was done! I ended up covered in oil, but rewarded myself with a self-satisfied smile.
On the day I returned from Bridgwater and, literally as I pulled into my driveway, I clocked up 20,000 miles on my cyclometer!! :-) . Don't you think that was appropriate: that it happened on the return home from having my bike serviced following my trip? I did.
I am currently in London with my elder brother; my children and I having driven up on Sunday for my younger brother's 50th. I brought my bike, in order to cycle back to Almondsbury over 2 days (110 miles). Saw some Polish jazz at the South Bank Centre
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27 June - Almondsbury
I am giving my first trip talk on Friday 9 July. For those interested in coming along, it will be in St Mary's Church, Almondsbury, 7 for 7.30pm start. Admission is free. Donations will go to The Leprosy Mission.
Someone said to me that it will probably take at least 6 months to readjust to 'normal' life. That might well be so. I am certainly glad I incorporated a 3-month period between returning home and resuming work.
Although I am enjoying putting together a presentation fo my trip, it is very frustrating, as it is taking forever: choosing, sorting, editing photos and inserting into a powerpoint; being beset with computer problems; for instance, having to deal with blue screens after plugging in a portable hard drive, designed to be acting as my back-up! Even having replaced it for another, the same thing happened!?!
Not too much cycling has been done these last few weeks. I enjoyed the 70-odd miles from London to Marlborough, meeting a friend, then being driven home in an open-top car with my bike sticking up on the back seat. My daughter and I cycled the Bristol-Bath cycle route the other day, caught a local, trundling train back to Bristol Parkway, from there cycling home (26 miles total). My son and I yesterday cycled to Purton, on the Sharpness-Gloucester canal, along quiet country lanes, stopping on the way back at a local inn to watch the first half of the doomed England/Germany match, continuing home during half-time for the second half (40 miles).
26 July - Almondsbury
Time for a journal entry, a) before the month ends, b) before I am put into the archives of your memory complete with mothballs.
I managed to put my powerpoint together in time for my first talk on 9 July. The week leading up to the evening I was up 'til anything from 1am-3am, to 5.15am the night before/morning of the talk (it was broad daylight when I went to bed; quite weird). I had planned to give a 45 minute talk; it lasted a couple of hours (we did have a 1/2 hour break midway). On return home at 10.30pm, I then did a massive delete of the powerpoint pics by 2/3 in time for a 35-minute talk the following morning at a nearby church's breakfast meeting.
Two days later, on Monday, found me cycling to Peterborough (160 miles) arriving on Wednesday afternoon to give a presentation to staff at the Head Office of The Leprosy Mission. Subsequently, I have been invited, as one of three speakers, to the national supporters' conference in London in October. TLM also organises fund-raising events which take in visits to their centres in Asia, one of which could be a cycling trip in Thailand the end of next year; maybe I shall be the group leader. If anyone is interested in the possibility of such a trip, why not contact TLM to express an interest? [it would be fully supported, so no carrying all your own baggage on your bike, just a water bottle :-) ].
En route, I stayed with friends near Stratford-upon-Avon who run Redhill Christian Centre, who have invited me to lead a day seminar in their 2011 summer programme.
One of the three passengers on the trans-Pacific freighter stayed with me recently. And now Krista and I are due to meet up with the third passenger, Elliot, in London for a grand and welcome reunion. I am also meeting up with a couple of other cycling contacts: Hallam (from the RGS Explore weekend 6 months before my trip) and Tom (The Hungry Cyclist whom I met in Jerusalem).
I love being home, although it is, at times, still strange. At least I still have flexibiity of my hours. The testing time will be my return to work on 16 August; it will be interesting to see how everything goes.
The occasional media opportunity still comes along: BBC Radio Bristol called last Tuesday, with 15 minutes' notice, to interview me as part of discussions why twice as many men as women cycle. I am also appearing on Radio Bristol's Saturday Surgery, as a dinner party guest, on 7 August between 9 and10am. So, if you want to find out who my 4 dinner guests would be, what food and drink I would serve them, which 3 music tracks would be playing in the background and where the dinner party would take place, then you'll need to tune into Radio Bristol at 9am on the 7th (or catch it afterwards, thanks to the wonders of modern technology - particularly useful if you are in a 7-hour backwards timezone)
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31 August - Almondsbury
Coo, just about made it for a journal entry in August.
The month has been pretty interesting: 'dinner party guest' on BBC Radio Bristol, on 7 August; return to work on 16 August; interview and photo shoot for the Sun on 20 and 27 August, with a view to a feature article within the next 6 weeks.
Return to work was not as bad as a I had dreaded - and it was good to have my first pay-slip for 2 1/2 years. Even so, life for everyone at the university is uncertain at the moment due to reviews, re-structuring and cutbacks and so I shall just have to suck it and see as to what my future will be in this respect. Rather interesting to see the outcome.
In the meantime, my daughter has just moved out of home, as forewarned before my return (but still weird, all the same, to have an empty bedroom!); and my son would like to just up sticks and travel for a year (now, from where could such a notion have come?!), but staying put for the moment.
I have cycled to work a couple of times, but unwilling to do so in the rain, of which we have had a deal recently. In two months I have only used one tank of petrol, which is quite satisfying. And I finally have been able to stop my high-squeaky bike brakes from making that awful noise - by taking it to a helpful little bike shop guy, who quickly adjusted the pads and, hey presto! no more noise. This is both a big relief, but also a little surprising, considering I had had no joy from my bike shop, who just told me to get the wheels wet to stop them squeaking; or from a big name bike shop nearby, who needed to know if the rims were ceramic or not before they could proceed to look at the bike; or from some cycle workshop people during the bike film festival, who kindly made adjustments, but which did nothing to alleviate the noise. So, thanks hugely, to Pete from Pete's Cycles, Thornbury; it's a joy cycling again :-)
I am receiving invitations to give some talks, which is great. I shall also be arranging another talk in my village, as there were a few people who were unable to attend the first one and others keep asking to hear about my trip. Usefully, I met recently a woman, Deborah, who, besides planning her own 2-year round-the-world from next May, is an established speaker on her life as a Fleet Street photo-journalist and who gave me useful info on life as a speaker.
My book is progressing slowly - although I am enjoying writing it.
OK, well that's it for now - otherwise I shall be going over into September!
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30 September - Almondsbury
So, what's been happening during September? Weell, let me see ... It stopped raining so much partway through the month and so I was cycling 3 out of 4 days to work. It's not a great route because it is along a busy road and there are many incidents when motorists make it clear they are none too pleased at having you share the same road as they. Initially, it was pretty daunting going along this route, cars overtaking far too closely and cutting in unnecessarily, having to cross busy lanes from one cycle lane to another, then back again. And, do you know? There is a new section of road, smooth black tarmac with brand new markings - but no designated cycle lane! And this is Bristol: Britain's first cycling city! Humph! Therefore, all a bit daunting at first. But now, with some familiarisation, I see it more as a challenge and almost enjoy the perceived confrontation.
Amongst non-cycling activities, I have been playing sax and singing in the Praise Group in church. We started a new pattern of services in September, which means that all 3 of them are in the morning on Sundays now, instead of one being in the evening. It seems to be working pretty well, in that congregations which previously did not meet, are now mingling and overlapping because the gap between them is pretty close, being 8am, 9am and 10.30am. It's great; I really enjoy being involved.
Unfortunately, I developed a cold leading to a chest infection this last week and wonder if it was caused by pollution from my open-air commuting. Three times on my trip I had a chest infection, two of which I suspected at the time might have been caused by air pollution. Bummer, eh?
I have been preparing some trip presentations that are coming up in October: to a Deaf women's group (I'm supposed to be presenting it in BSL (British Sign Language)!; to The Leprosy Mission's National Supporters' Conference in London ('My outlook on healing'!), a Q&A session during the local Bristol TLM Supporters' Group meeting, a seminar session at my place of work, Centre for Deaf Studies, Bristol University.
A literary agent has expressed an interest in the book of my 'amazing journey' and so we'll see if anything comes of that. Fun, if it did. Even if it doesn't, fun that I've even been approached in the first place.
And now, advance notice of another trip talk to be given in the local Old School Hall in Almondsbury, on Monday 29 November, 7.30pm, for those who missed the opportunity way back in July.
This time, it will not last for 2 hours; I thought that was overdoing it rather. So, do put the date in your diaries and come along, if you are
free and fancy an evening out.
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31 October 2010 - Almondsbury
The clocks went back in the early hours of this morning. As usual, last week saw many debates in the media as to the whys & wherefores and the geo-pros & cons of this annual activity. In the meantime, I chose to luxuriate in the extra hour this afforded and what I should do with it: an extra in bed or doing some rather more productive? In the end, I did both (I'm like that!): rose at 7 (normally it would have been 8 on a Sunday), made a mug of tea, thence returning to bed to write some long-outstanding emails.
Last month I mentioned my suspicion that my chest infections might have been caused by air pollution. In response, I had an email from Barry, a cyclist I met briefly on my way to the airport in Oman!, happily dispelling such fears, as surveys show that cyclists, actually, are less likely to be affected than other people because of breathing more deeply and thus expelling more effectively any pollutants. That's welcome news, then. So, carry on cycling.
The 4 trip-related events I had listed in my previous journal entry all came to pass. All were different, all were well-received and all gave me loads of encouragement in my attempts to encourage the listeners. So, thanks to everyone who came along.
November is quietish on the trip front. Nonetheless, there is an enjoyable anticipation of them: being a panel member for the cycling workshop at the Royal Geographic Society's Explore weekend mid-month, a radio interview on local Gloss FM radio on 23 November, a talk in my village (29 November), a talk at Thornbury Library (1 December).
I do not drive very much (in the 6 months I have been back, I have filled up my car only three times) and, when I do, I try incredibly hard to stay within the speed limit, especially as I would be due for the first time in a long while for a clean licence from speeding points from this month. Imagine my disgust and incredulity then when a few weeks ago I received a pending prosecution letter for going 36 mph downhill in a 30 zone! People locally have had to suffer my constant indignation over the intervening weeks, but, now I hope, it is (just about) out of my system. I had the option of attending a Speed Choice course = a 3-hour session on the dangers and results of different speed impacts and on sharing tips for safer driving. I am glad to say that the course was led by friendly, approachable people, which helped enormously to assuage the negative reluctance of most of us in being there, enabling us all to come away with something useful from the occasion. I suggested that they might add to the course some safety awareness towards cyclists, as all of it was geared towards looking out for pedestrians.
Cycling Full Circle: a lone woman's pilgrimage round the world. All welcome. Monday 29 November 2010, 7.30pm, Old School Hall, Almondsbury (down in the village near the church). Entry: ticket £4; on the door £5. A donation from the proceeds will be made to The Leprosy Mission. Contact me for tickets or more information at: firstname.lastname@example.org
21 November - Trip Talk reminder
Just thought I'd send a reminder to anyone in my vicinity who might like to come along to a trip talk on Monday 29 November in the Old School Hall, Almondsbury, at 7.30pm. As well as being able to buy tickets from me, you can also buy them from our wonderful Community Shop. The talk is in aid of The Leprosy Mission.
Later that week, I shall be giving another trip talk in Thornbury library, on 1 December at 7.30pm.
And yet another plug! This week on Tuesday afternoon between 3 and 4pm, I shall be interviewed on local radio, Gloss FM by Chris Mountain. Whilst I was away, my son was interviewed by Chris as to how his mum was getting on. And now, I can give my version. :-) So, even if you are not local, you could always tune in online - if you'd like to.
I had an email recently from my sometime cycling buddy across the bottom of the States, which you might be interested in having a look at. Nicole has sold up everything and, on 1 December,
will be leaving her old life behind to be Living on a Bike, with the intention of doing so until she reaches 50 - at least. She's currently in her early 40s.
She's an inspiration and, through meeting her and others like her, I had glimpses of the possibility of living in an ad hoc way, as opposed to a regular 9-5 way.
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19 December - Approaching Christmas
It has been a little while since I updated my journal, during which a few things have come to pass.
On 28 November was my 54th birthday, which means it is 5 years since picking up the book in the charity shop and within which time I have cycled round the world and returned home. Don't things happen quickly?
Having been away from home and family for my previous 2 birthdays, it was wonderful to spend it with my children and friends. Today was my daughter's birthday; on 24 December is my son's.
As for cycling, I had been doing so to work each day, geared up with lights, as the days shortened, but, once the freeze set in, I resorted to the sheltered confines of the car. And so I shall continue for the time-being. After 21 December the days will begin to grow again, which might make it easier to resume cycling.
My last couple of trip talks were well attended: the first one, in the Old School Hall in my village, was in aid of the The Leprosy Mission, to which a donation was duly sent. The second was four miles up the road in the town library in Thornbury. Despite the proximity and the bitter weather, we had about 75 people attend the 2 events. As usual, I really enjoyed giving the talks and, from people's responses, it seemed they thought it had been worth coming along.
The local Gloss FM radio interview the previous week was also pretty good fun. Talking of which, a part of my Radio Bristol Dinner Party interview in August is going to be included in a review of the year on New Year's Day on Radio Bristol from 9-11am.
Being a First/Bristol Evening Post Gold Star Award recipient (August 2010) meant that a couple of days ago my children and I attended the Awards lunch to be presented with it, along with the other monthly winners. It was great fun, each of us being presented with our award by a suitable celebrity (eg mine was Sheri Eugene, a local news presenter with deaf links). Others included Eddie Large, The Stig, Big Brother winner, Josie Gibson. The overall Award winner went to Bob Woodward, founder of CLIC.
"Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, so please put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do. If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God
bless you". Coo, I've not thought about that rhyme for a long while. Happy Christmas, one and all.
New Year's Eve
So. The last day of 2010. And what a year. One in which we retained the Ashes; there is a royal engagement; the Queen has her first great grandchild; the recession hits hard; students demonstrate against government policies; I complete my cycle trip; my post at work disappears; I learn my last day at work will be 31 March 2011.
Christmas has been fun at home with my family and friends; back to tradition, even to the extent of there being snow! Church services included Toy & Gift, Carols & Readings, Christingle. And, as a family, we had our usual Norwegian Christmas Eve with kassler and kransekake; my elder brother arrived on Christmas Day; phone calls were made to my younger brother and to my father in Cyprus.
Looking back over the year, the event that stands out the most is that of the Chilean miners. Many have used it as a parable to illustrate God's love for us. This is my take:
Trapped in the dark bowels of the earth, cut off from the world and separated from those you love, with no possible means of escape, helpless and afraid, destined to die, what can you do?
Nothing. There is nothing you can do to save yourself, to bring you back to those you love. You are doomed. What hope of being saved, so far in the depths?
So you wait, to die, in the dark, far away from those for whom you care and who care for you.
Then, after what seems an eternity, you become aware of something; a noise, slowly increasing in volume. You wait with bated breath.
At last, you can hardly believe it, but, yes, there it is, a small beam of light has pierced the choking darkness and a delicate wisp of life-saving air can be felt from that miracle shaft, patiently carved by the rescuers above.
And , oh, what joy and relief! Not only for those down below, but equally for all those above: families, friends, colleagues, rescuers, strangers, the whole world - they all rejoice as one voice, giving thanks and praise.
And that is exactly what it is like between God and us. If we let it.