Friday, 22 April 2011
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,