Well, well, this first month of the new year has gone by incredibly quickly. In a way, I am glad, because I find January pretty hard going, as the days are generally grey and cold; and going to and fro to work is still done in the dark until nearly the end of the month. I have yet to return to cycling to work; too much like hard work. It's likely I shall continue in wimpish style for a while longer.
I now have just two pay packets left until I am off on my own, leaving the safety of the University and a known and regular income, to fend for myself. It is both daunting and exciting; the first time in my life I shall have been in such a situation. Interesting, though, that it has come about like this. One of the goals of my trip had been to have a confirmation of my future direction in life: whether or not to continue working at the Centre for Deaf Studies or whether to do something else. On return home, I had no real indication what my decision should be, although there were telltale signs, what with cutbacks and uncertainty and reviews, that my job at the University might be in jeopardy. Well, I guess the fact, then, that it has actually disappeared in the re-structuring is a pretty clear confirmation that I am now in for a change of direction of livelihood. I am looking forward to it.
The first thing I shall do is to spend the month of April knuckling under to get on and finish my book.
The first three weeks of May will be taken up cycling with a woman, Debbie, at the start of her own round-the-world cycling trip. It seems that she also took inspiration from Anne Mustoe's A Bike Ride, subsequently compelled to follow in her wheel tracks.
And in June, there is the chance of a friend from Canada coming over to visit.
I have some talks lined up for the next couple of months (Rotary, cycling club, Mothers' Union, Bosum Buddies, Fielder Club) and, of course, I am open to further bookings. :-)
I have also started a 10-week course on Spirituality and Prayer, which is proving to be extremely stimulating and interesting. That, playing sax and singing in the church Praise Group and currently learning a beautiful setting of the Nunc Dimittis for a memorial service in March (composed by the widow of the gentleman in question), I am feeling very holy! :-). Not that I want to sound facetious; I love being back home with my family and being part of the community in which I live. There are wonderful people here.
I am also looking forward to future trips and to see what the future holds.
Life is good.
* * * * *
Isn't it wonderful to be seeing spring yellow everywhere?! Always a welcome sight after the lengthy drear of winter.
This month has included giving trip talks to Bosom Buddies cancer support and Bristol Cycling Campaign, being invited by the Christian magazine, Woman Alive, to be interviewed for an article appearing in the summer, various invites for future
talks. The book is still progressing slowly, but I hope to redress this in April, when I shall devote the entire month getting to grips with it.
This next month is going to be one of transition as I prepare, mentally and physically, for my new life. I have no idea what it will hold for me. I have only a conviction that it will be interesting, exciting and fulfilling. Even so, it will be strange; I have been at the Centre for Deaf Studies since 1996.
So, then, what are my potential options? Well, I could rent out a room; increase my trip talks; take a TEFL course; play the stockmarket; work in Tesco; become a proof-reader; rent out the house; go cycling.
In the meantime, back to work.
* * * * *
April Fool's Day
You might wonder why there was no March report. Well, up 'til now, my post-trip reports have been written at the end of each month and so have a retrospective feel to them. Having said goodbye yesterday to my work colleagues at Centre for Deaf Studies and elsewhere in the University, it is more appropriate now to be looking forward, as this is the start of my new life. Writing a journal update, therefore, at the beginning of the month, marks this turning point.
During March, I gave talks to a Ladies' Circle, a Fielder Club, a Mothers' Union; as well as the second of three talks to a Rotary Club. I fully enjoyed a weekend away with my church in north Devon at the serene, yet stimulating Lee Abbey.
I had a welcome reunion in London with friends from my trip who were visiting from America.
The 10-week Spirituality and Prayer course finished this week, although, having signed up to write an accompanying assignment, I still have that, rather daunting, prospect ahead of me. The aim of doing it is to coalesce what I have learned during these last few months and so deepen my spiritual awareness.
This last week has been strange: for instance, having not received my pay-slip at work, as is the norm, and querying it with Finance, who replied, well, yes, as you are finishing at the end of the month, we have sent it to your home address, along with your P45 (which, for readers abroad, is the official form saying I no longer have a job), it all had a rather forceful effect, suddenly hitting me with the finality of my time at CDS, after 15 years. On Wednesday, my last Centre meeting was prefaced by a toast of sparkling wine and words of reminiscence and kindness by Prof Jim. And, yesterday, saw lunchtime and a yummy bring-and-share affair, accompanied by a lively game of rabbits' ears - games being a popular activity of CDS life. I received the most fabulous bouquet, which included birds of paradise flowers; a beautiful journal for recording subsequent cycling trips; and a load of vouchers for a local bike shop and for an outdoor adventuring shop - hmm ... I'm at a loss to know what inspired these choices.
So, today, having finished at CDS - oh, but hang on, not quite - I still have some minutes to write up from the final meeting on Wednesday! OK, so then, after THAT, what next? Assignment and book-writing throughout April; a goddaughter's 21st celebration; participating in the Easter Experience in church; some cycling in preparation for my 3 weeks in May with Debbie to Belgium and France, at the start of her own round-the-world.
I see that tight pink buds have formed on the flowering cherry tree outside my bedroom window: simultaneously both a reminder of this time 3 years ago and a happy anticipation of future cycling experiences.
* * * * *
A month into unemployment/resting/temporary retirement - and I am still here; here in the sense of non-demise, as well as in non-travelling, although the latter is about to change.
For the best part of April, I managed to create a daily routine: up at 7, shower and dress, kettle on, computer on, followed by 7.45 leaving the house to walk around the block in the fresh morning sun, back home, cup of tea and straight into 'my office' dining room, to work on my book until 1pm, with a 20-minute break at 10.45 for coffee and the morning story on Radio 4; two-hour lunch break; finished off with a couple more hours writing. By doing this, I made steady progress each day. It has been well worth forging this routine, as without it, I would have easily achieved nothing regarding the book. Seeing my progress, it has now probably given a fairly realistic idea of when the thing might be finished, which, I'd say, could be by the end of the year. It may seem a long time, but it is amazing how long it takes (for me!) to write a book.
I completed my assignment for the 'Spirituality & Prayer' course that I had mentioned in last month's journal. All I can say is, that it is done, containing the requisite amount of words, with a beginning, middle and end. It is not mind-blowing stuff. But, it's done. It took a long time. I don't think I am a natural writer or student.
It is with sadness that I am following events in the Middle East. There are poignant moments when I hear mention of places I stayed in, quite often with local people: such as Cairo, Da'ara, Damascus, Latakia, Amman, Shiraz. And, of course, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, when I stayed with people on the coast in Sendai and so cannot but wonder the great likelihood that they might have been killed. It is all very sobering.
And now just a couple of days ago, we had quite a different event. Who saw the Royal Wedding? Wasn't it surprisingly compelling viewing? Didn't they all do well? :-) So much hope and excitement, for the young couple, as well as for the country as a whole. Well, I thought so.
Now, though, it is time for a bit of a break, which sees me in London, having brought my laden bike up on the train, in order to set off with Debbie, for the first 3 weeks of her own round-the-world. Kick-off outside the Royal Academy, Sunday 1 May, 10am for 11am departure. Off to Dover, Dunkirk, Ypres, Gent, Brussels, Paris. Can't wait. Being back in the saddle has a glorious feel to it. I am down to just two rear panniers and a small bundle in between, plus basket and can actually lift up my bike with this reduced load. I have bought a smaller, lighter, more compact tent and minimised my camping cookware - and omitted my party outfit.
Sadly, I have not left with the cherry tree in full blossom, as it all flourished extremely early this year, over in a trice a couple of weeks ago! Most unusual.
See you in a a month. Have a wonderful May.
* * * * *
What a joy to have been cycling again! We had strong headwinds for the first three days, after which, it was plain sailing: no rain during the whole three weeks, only threatening to fall, with a mixture of cold and hot days and mostly flat terrain. Belgium was predominantly pleasurable cycling with a plethora of cycle lanes and, easily the best benefit, red painted lanes around the perimeter of roundabouts, within which cyclists are kept safe and given priority from other traffic. Debbie and I cycle at compatible speeds, except up hills, but, then, I guess I do have a couple of years extra workouts than she!
Cycling through Belgium, there are abundant and poignant reminders of the First World War, not least the short, daily ceremony in Ypres under the Menin Gate. Each evening, shortly before 6, the traffic is stopped, and at precisely 6pm, a group of buglers (four on the day we attended) quietly march into place to sound the Last Post, followed by a minute's silence, ended by the call to Reveille. If present, representative groups then lay their wreaths. It is incredibly moving. The ceremony was first started in 1928, then permanently established in 1929, from when it has continued every day uninterrupted, except during the Second World War, at which point, it was transferred to Brookwood Military Ceremony in Surrey, returning to Ypres the day the town was liberated by Polish soldiers, and continuing ever since.
We managed to pass through the beautiful and extensive champagne country around Rheims without stopping at any of the numerous domains to take up the invitations to sample the house special! Definitely a reason for returning some time.
By the time we arrived in Paris, Debbie, initially a reluctant camper, had been persuaded into the joys and, more probably, the economic necessity, of becoming an ardent advocate of pitching a tent. Eight days after leaving Paris, a text from her announces that she has camped every day since. Good on yer, kid! You can follow Debbie's trip on her blog. She has an art and artists theme, which is why part of our route incorporated a visit to Auvers-sur-Oise, in homage to where Van Gogh spent his last couple of months, painting frantically (78 canvases in that time).
In Paris, I stayed with friends who used to be my neighbors and with whom I had enjoyed a weekend in their idyllic home near Toulouse, way back at the beginning of my two-year stint.
For the short time I was there, it was good to have suggestions from Helen as to what I might visit. This included the Rodin museum, The Thinker being the most popular attraction. As a teenager I had read about Rodin and his work on this sculpture and so I was keen to see it. Also of interest to me was a painting, featuring the statue, by Edvard Munch, who had been a friend of my Norwegian godmother, who, many years ago, had donated to the Munch museum in Oslo, paintings by him and from whom she had received as gifts.
Now, I am back home - to an empty nest. My son moved out a couple of days ago, my daughter having flown the nest last summer. It feels a little strange. I am in the throes of finding a lodger, a new venture for me. At least it should help pay the bills, but also it might even be enjoyable.
My son and I went to a family funeral recently, on the way passing through the village of Meriden, which is not only the geographical centre of England, but also has a memorial on the green, at which there is held an annual service in May, to remember all cyclists who gave their lives in the two world wars.
* * * * *
This month’s journal has an emphasis on ongoing friendships made on my trip. One such friend visited for 10 days recently, at the same time suggesting that I make a list of jobs I wanted/needed
doing in the house and garden. Obligingly, I produced 35 'Things To Do' - well, he did ask. Over the course of the next 10 days we slowly ticked off 10 of them, but not quite managing, this time, to
knock through the kitchen and dining room.
My Pacific Ocean friend, Krista, who lives in Okinawa, one of the south sea islands of Japan, has recently lived through a couple of intense hurricanes, which, for some reason, has not deterred her from urging me to visit her in this beautiful location. It is high on my wish-list for the next couple of years.
Likewise, Yukon, Deadman Lake/Washington State, Shelton friends, Kip and Marya, have recently moved to the idyllic-looking shores of Lake Michigan and issued an equally tempting invitation to an extended visit, including carrying on writing my book whilst there, so no excuses.
I am delighted that there is still interest in my trip, even so long after my return. I am co-featured in an article on intrepid women, in the August issue of Woman Alive, a Christian magazine -
currently available in my local village community shop (as well as available to order from all good newsagents :-)
In Bristol in October, there is to be A Night of Adventure, hosted by Alastair Humphreys (you remember, the lunatic who cycled with a friend across Siberia in mid-winter), yours truly being invited to participate. The format of the event is that each speaker has 20 slides, each one automatically rolling to the next after 20 seconds, giving a total of 400 seconds (and to save you the mental maths: 6 minutes 40 seconds) to talk about their trip. It is a challenging adrenaline-pusher, but also promises to be quite fun.
I received my first Warm Showers’ guests a couple of days ago. An intrepid couple, Huw and Carolyn, on a tandem with trailer, carrying a Shelter Box, are now coming towards the end of their year trip. They started in Vancouver last summer, cycling bits of British Columbia, Australasia, Europe, whilst giving talks and doing the rounds of Rotary Clubs and schools, to raise an incredible £47,000 for Shelter Box, which provides emergency survival equipment (including tent, cooking equipment, childrens' education packs) for those made homeless by natural disasters. Incidentally, they were made redundant a few years ago, each gained a TEFL and now tend to teach English in Portugal, in preference to a regular job here in England. Hmm, interesting.
Other cycling friends and cyclists, whose journeys I continue to follow, include Trans-America Nicole, who subsequently sold up everything to live, at least for a few years, on the road; and round-the-worlders: Debbie, currently in Greece/Turkey; Stephen
Fabes, just arrived in Cape Town; Ken Roberts, ambling through Australia. And a walking pilgrim, Jan, who I met in Syria on his way to Jerusalem, has recently completed one of the Santiago routes, across Spain, at the same time
raising money for a community bus in Ethiopia.
In the meantime:
I have a lodger just arrived, with me until the end of August, a taster to see if it is my thing.
My book continues apace - sort of.
I am due to complete an assignment on The Resurrection.
Life is good - and varied. I hope also for you. XX
* * * * *
Since my last journal update it has been a pretty quiet time. I am progressing satisfactorily with writing my trip book, hoping to have it finished towards the end of the year. Even if I do not manage to find a publisher willing to take it, I can always self-publish, such are the wonders of the internet (for all its downsides). The main thing, for me, is that I am enjoying writing the book, as much as for re-living the, mostly, good times, as well as a reminder of why I did it!
As I write, Hurricane Irene has been making her presence felt (SO glad I didn’t have to cycle in quite such conditions), reminding me a little of my windiest trip day (in the weather sense) from Fort Hancock to Van Horn, 35mph, gusting 65 (Irene is 85mph).
I am taking a break this coming week, spending four days in Drimnin (opposite Tobermory/Balamory), in Scotland, fond memories of this being the place where my grown-up children grew up on holiday each year, from when my son was 8 months-old (he is now 22 years of age); as well as being part of my all-important taster trip to see if cycle touring was ‘my thing’, or not. I embarked on a 10-day, island-hopping trip up the west coast of Scotland, in order to confirm whether I was being totally insane or completely lucid, only to have my inner conviction undeniably strengthened by this being the best holiday I had ever had – as such, I had no option but to cycle round the world.
I keep thinking of all the cycling I still plan to do (Norway, Iceland, Europe, east coast America, trans-Canada, China, New Zealand ….. ), but am also thoroughly appreciating the self-indulgence of writing about my trip, as well as time with family, friends and community. I went with my daughter at the weekend to pick up a couple of cute, blue butterfly, mini lops (ie. rabbits, to you and me).
If you want a sense of adventure, why not come to the following event, at which yours truly will be one of the speakers?
"A fast-paced, fun and fascinating series of talks from explorers and adventurers. Each speaker is limited to just 20 slides to accompany their tales. The challenge is that each slide will automatically scroll forward after just 20 seconds. With this unusual and challenging presentation format, once the talks begin there is no stopping or going back, the audience must be ready to be swept from adventure to adventure! For more information and to buy the £20 tickets visit www.hopeandhomes.org/nightofadventure or call Mike Partridge on 01722 790111".
* * * * *
I keep reading journals and blogs of cyclists on the road and I am green with envy.
People like Ken, on the road now for a couple of years, recently having passed through Alaska and Canada and reminding me of the remote campsite at Deadman Lake where I met a delightful couple, Kip and Marya, with whom I remain in touch. And Nicole, my hardy cycling companion during the winter of 2009/10, now permanently on the road and having a ball cycling across America guiding a group of intrepid keenies. And Steve, who attended the same cycling workshop as I at the Royal Geographic Society's Explore weekend in November 2007 and who has recently completed the length of the African continent as part of his 5-year 6 continents' tour.
* * *
In the meantime, I content myself with cycling over the Severn bridge .....
..... to pick blackberries for breakfast.
Since my return to UK, I continue to experience a heightened appreciation of the beauty of Britain. Not least, Scotland. In fact, once you hit the Lake District, which is fabulous, the scenery becomes ever more magnificent. My father, two brothers and I had an exceptionally memorable family holiday a few weeks ago.
* * *
Sitting at the desk in front of a window, beavering away at my book, the periphery of my vision catches an unexpected movement in the trees outside: poetry in motion in the form of a hot air balloon, silently, smoothly sailing by.
AND FINALLY, a reminder about the NIGHT OF ADVENTURE in Bristol on Monday 17 October, in aid of Hopes and Homes for Children. See you there. :-)
* * * * *
The Night of Adventure was brilliant. If ever you get the chance to go along to one, then do. It was fun and exciting, certainly for the speakers, but, also, I am reliably informed, for the listeners – at the same time raising a deal of money, on the night £12,000, supporting an incredibly worthy cause, Hope and Homes for Children. Well done, Al and Mike.
Personally, it was great being amongst such intrepid adventurers, hearing about their amazing activities and speaking to them in between. I am SO glad I stuck to cycling, far easier than skiing to the north pole or scaling Everest, which is what the two other female speakers did! On the other hand, natural navigation had a definite appeal to it, although not to the extent of trying it out walking the Skeleton Coast and there probably would be little need for it stand-up paddle-boarding down the Mississippi or walking the length of the Amazon. Micro adventures were appealing, slightly less so was off-road motor-biking, whereas extreme diving, especially when included with caves, held no appeal for me whatsoever, however impressed I might be with those for whom it does.
Yep, a great night. And I am unashamedly including a link to Al’s website and a complimentary comment about me from one of the audience!
And, if you want to know something about the speakers that you might have missed, you can check them out here.
And now, back to my book, which needs to get going a bit, if I want to carry out proposed plans for next year. Currently, they include walking to Santiago, by way of Plymouth to Santander, following the Northern Coast and Camino Primitivo, the reverse direction along which I cycled home last year.
* * * * *
This journal entry comes from the sunny climes of winter Cyprus, having flown out on 30 November for a flying visit with my father, resulting in a timely escape from the bitterly cold weather in UK. Even so, it has not been all sunshine and roses, what with hailstorms, thunder and lightning and gale-force winds last week. I return to England on the 14th, to do battle with starting preparations for Christmas!
I have not been the only visitor to the house, having espied this alien creature taking up residence on the clothes carousel in the garden.
At the end of November was my 55th birthday. It seems hard to believe that it was a mere 5 years ago when I announced my intention to cycle round the world, ‘at some point in the future’, and
that, in the meantime, I have been there, done that, come home. So, tell me, what should I announce for these next 5 years?
For the first time, I appreciated the concept of Facebook, when I received loads of birthday greetings from unexpected well-wishers.
I had hoped to have had my book ready by the end of the year, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, this is now put back a month. In the meantime, I can always commend another’s: Alastair Humphreys, who previously produced a couple of books recounting his 4 ½ years cycling round the world, has now come out with a couple more: an adventure story for children and an account of his walking the length of a river in India.
The Night of Adventure presentations are being put online, to which I have just been given a link to mine. If you feel like hearing what a 6-minute 40-seconds' recounting of my trip sounds like, click here.
And now, to end, something to help you into the festive spirit:
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *