Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Suffolk to Basel

"Er excusez moi monsieur" I muttered to the bespectatcled business man as I searched for the route into Basel, Switzerland still not totally convinced I was actually in Switzerland after a near miss with Germany and believing I was on an industrial estate rather than a border crossing 
He looked at me blankly. Aah, not French, silly me as I took a deep breath and sought my German equivalent
"Entschuldigung, wie komme ich am besten.." I began in my best schoolgirl German. He continued to look at me blankly and with almost a begging expression interrupted me with "parlez vous anglais?"
For a second I wasn't sure if he was French asking to speak English, Swiss wanting to help me with my pitiful French and German attempts or perhaps he really was English! He was!, working here as an expat right on the border with France  "lots of drugs round these frontiers you see" he explained and then seeing my slightly worried expression chuckled and added "Pharmaceutical companies I mean, that's what we're doing here, don't worry it's as safe as houses here"
"Aah, good and Basel centre?" as by now the sun was setting and I had as usual not thought to check out any place to sleep and was a little paranoid about spending the night on a park bench with my orange survival bag for fear my ex CEO who had a home here would somehow stumble upon me on his early morning jog and see what I've become.
"Just follow the tramlines".. and so I did and Basel was lovely in the dark and I've now had time to upload the photos from UK and France. You can view them in slideshow on the Photo page next to Where Am I tab or go via the Picassa link below

SherlockTales: UK and France

Friday, 22 April 2011

Pedalling Musings

Does it worry you how you will occupy your mind? I was asked.. Let me tell you how my mind is occupied each day.

In England I had my jaw clenched and blasphemies spat silently from my lips as I fought for space and acknowledgement on the roads. In France I sport an inane grin on my face, a grin that has not left my face since I was the first on board Le Moliere from Dover to Calais.How can I explain the inexplicable joy and reward this 'lifestyle' brings?

My first few days were spent tallying roadkill: this continued into France. I won't list them here but hedgehogs are now in the lead, closley followed by badgers, stoats, (birds I haven't included) and 1 fox, 1 black cat, 3 jumpers, 2 pairs of trousers, 1 glove (probably mine) and a pair of frilly pink knickers - in the Somme of all places.

I have considered the careers of those who paint the bike track signs. In England we seem to be using a template for a Brompton cycle. In France they are much more uniform and sportive.

I have pondered Shakespeare, Chaucer and even Virgil has sprung to mind as I viewed pastoral perfection.  I have grimaced going uphill and have made stupid woohoo noises going downhill..

Thoughts become meditative. Over and over again you think of a subject.  I  have no hang ups yet if a negative thought springs to mind it is contemplated, dealt with and left behind within 100 pedals

 Tent life: my eyes have opened again. I look at a blade of grass (yes you may snigger) but when was the last time you really looked at one! I look to see where the sun is setting and face the dilemma of where to pitch - should I lay in bed and watch the sunset or should I wait for it to hit my face in the morning and dry out a damp tent. I pitch under trees to help absorb the morning dew. I set up my whisperlite stove, I change into thermals, I read my Kindle, I sit and stare and think.

Yet there is interaction.. old men  sitting outside their cottages raise their caps at me as I cycle past, farmhands on tractors clap their hands, truck drivers flash their lights, honk their horns and wave, I've had people stop at the top of a hill- while I struggle on up- just so they can shout out bravo, bon courage, incroyable when I breathlessly and meekly overtake them. Maryse in Rheims who cycled with me along the waterway while we chatted about her life and mine (thank you), Patrik who was visiting his uncle at the house 1000km from my mother's, the old man in Rheims who shook my hand, every single person who has stopped to see if I'm ok: the man who cycled to china 2 years ago whom I met in the Somme, the truck driver, the motorcyclist, the couple on the canal who thought I was 25 (love them!), the endless smiles and waves and support from everyone

Oscar speech acknowledgements aside.. it has been great. Never realised it could/would be this good,

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pedalling distractedly East

I probably have the world's most unupdated blog prior to a bike journey and thought that I really should add a post before I embark on a journey east. Yet, as is typical with me, I became distracted while researching visa requirements for Turkmenistan and stumbled upon the work of Laura Galbraith: her picture of "Bike Bread Delivery" of girl on a bicycle loaded up with baguettes and donning pigatils reminded me of.. well me! Ok my hair's not pink and my legs are not that long and the stilettos have now been stored in the attic and my sit up and beg bicycle with wicker basket has been usurped by a rather stern though still lovely all black we mean business Thorn Raven Tour with a handlebar bag.. yet I digress - here is Laura's picture of which I look nothing like