Thought I’d start my story by recounting the bikes I have had. My first bike was an unnamed, slightly battered, hand repainted machine with no gears. I think I was nine at the time and very proud of my new independent means of transport. Having recently seen a certain film at that time, I repainted the bike yellow and black with the name Genevieve on the crossbar. I used to cycle from home in Boreham Wood to Dunstable along the A5 on sunny summer Saturdays to play on the Downs.
My biggest expedition on this bike was from home to the North Downs near Reigate one Easter weekend with my elder brother. We cycled all the way down the Edgware Road, round Marble Arch, over the Thames at Battersea – through all the traffic that I would never let any child loose among today!! It was a sweltering day and I was dying from heat stroke, not helped by my bike’s lack of gears while my brother’s had a Sturmey Archer three-speed gear! That night we camped on the North Downs – it snowed 6 inches, our tent leaked and we got wet and cold; but at least it kept the milk fresh. Ahh, childhood holidays! I still wonder how I survived that 35 mile cycle ride – and that it hasn’t put me off punishing my body in a similar way ever since!
More about my next bike in the next post.
I bought my second bike at the age of 14, having saved up money I’d earned working Friday evenings and Saturdays at a greengrocers (yes, child labour was alive and well in those days!). The bike shop I went to was Don Farrel’s on the Edgware Road in NW London; it was a second-hand black racing bike (having been repainted it had no name on it) with four gears and cost me the princely sum of £7. Fifty-five years later, I still have it! It became my touring and commuting bike for many years and is now my back-up bike if my main bike is not available. It’s also fun just to pedal around on a quite venerable yet stylishly simple bike.
Continue reading My Bikes (part 2)
My newest bike is now 35 years old! But it has gone through a couple of restorations (perhaps I should too!). I have done several cycle trips to Belgium and one to Brittany – purely self-indulgent, especially when factoring in the delicious Belgian beers! However, my biggest trip was in 2010 when I cycled from Paris to Santiago de Compostela, following the pilgrim route. It was a great trip and whilst I broke no records (averaged 50 miles per day), it gave me plenty of time to contemplate life, the universe and everything. What was marvellous was the tremendous sense of camaraderie experienced at the pilgrim hostels in Spain, sharing cheap simple meals and bunkhouse accommodation along the way. In a sense, this cycle ride to Paris is also a pilgrimage – this time to try to save the planet rather than my soul! Or at least show solidarity with those who are committed to real change for the sake of all, people and planet.
This is a picture of me on a cycle trip in Belgium in April 2015 – at least it shows me cycling, and gives a good idea of the types of panniers and other paraphernalia I will be carrying (not to mention a couple of dozen Climate Vision Reports and hundreds of leaflets!)
Today (Friday 13 November) Luci Isaacson of Climate Vision and I were interviewed by Donna Birrell at BBC Radio Cornwall in Truro. Luci talked about the Climate Vision Report which we will be taking to Paris and I said why we were taking it there. For those early birds out there, you can hear the interview on Donna’s Sunday morning broadcast at 7.30am – the rest of you can catch it later on BBC Iplayer!
Luci had also had a meeting with Sarah Newton, MP for Falmouth & Truro, and she has promised to pass on a copy to Amber Rudd, MP, Environment & Climate Change Minister, and also to table it at Cabinet Meeting!
First of all, we are still going to Paris, despite the events of Friday night, as you will have read from the announcement from Climate Vision. And apologies to those of you who might have tuned into Radio Cornwall expecting to hear Luci and me being interviewed by Donna Birrell – again, the events in Paris overtook us all.
On the eve of our departure, my bags are packed, and I am listening to the wind and rain blowing around outside. Hopefully, it will blow through tonight and our departure will not be too wind-blasted! Anyway, I am looking forward to getting under way and to meeting our various well-wishers as we head for Plymouth. I think the Cornish leg of the journey will be the more challenging with all those hills; from St Malo to Paris is less hilly but further, but we have factored in enough time to allow for possible delays.
Just had an email from Helena from Truro who is in India at the moment and she tells me that the children at the school she is at are all switched onto the Climate Change situation. Good to be able to share with them in this pilgrimage of hope!
Next update – once we are on the journey!
After a full breakfast at the Molesworth Arms, your intrepid cyclists headed out of Wadebridge along the Camel Trail to Bodmin. There were patches of blue in the sky and birds sang as we followed the old Southern Railway trackbed alongside the River Camel, thinking that this part of the journey would have been even easier if the trains still ran! Arriving in Bodmin with time to spare before our next engagement we had a cup of tea at the aptly-named Folly Cafe. Continue reading Wadebridge to Liskeard
This trip is proving to be a meteorological experience…Canon Lynda Barley’s blessing seemed to only work as far as Plymouth as the weather from Truro to Plymouth more or less good, compared to what the rest of Cornwall was getting at the time. We cycled off the ferry at St Malo into a driving drizzle first thing Friday morning and rode east along the coast, more or less, to the little village of Le Vivier-sur-Mer where, as it was noon and we we wet, we’d break for lunch. Two hours and three courses later, we were warm, dry, fed and watered and ready to get wet again. Setting off down the road, and stopping as we do at each junction to check direction, we found we were missing one of the four – Roger. No amount of texts and phonecalls could raise him, so the three of us pressed on to the town of Pontorson. Phoning and texting still failed to raise him, so decided that, after half an hour, we would continue to Avranches, our final destination for the day and, jus as we started out, Roger appeared! He’d had a puncture, which he’d mended, and his phone had been disconnected by his provider, hence the lack of communication. Ah, the wonders of technology, only to be scuppered by the phone providers! The rest of the ride took us within sight of Mont St Michel, then on to the ancient hill city of Avranche, where the final ride up the hill into the city was a real challenge. Then to our AirBnB where Luci welcomed us to the apartment right in the centre. Nearby launderette provided tumble driers for us to dry out our clothing, with a handy bar where we could drink in comfort and watch our clothes tumbling. Then to S Marco’s Pizza Place for, well, you guessed it, pizza! And so to bed….zzzzzz.
Saturday dawns a nice bright day…until 09.00 when the rain-gods turn the tap on again. Ah-ha! We fooled them! We didn’t leave until 09.30, by which time the rain-gods had got fed-up with waiting for us to get under way and turned the tap off – for the moment! Hurtled downhill out of Avranches and turned off alongside a river to trace our way over minor roads in an easterly direction. Roger’s magical deflating tyre trick was getting to wear by this time – poor lad, he seems to have drawn the short (puncture straw)! Pleasant amble along river valley to village of Brecey, where it clouded over, wind picked up and occasional rain fell (horizontally). As we progressed onto higher ground, our hands, feet, and faces got wetter and colder, but pushed on to Vire, the halfway point where we stopped for lunch of omelette and chips at 14.00. Another hard push, albeit with the rain abating, across elevated granite plateau before an impressive 3.5km drop down into the town of Aunay-sur-Odon, where we stopped for a life-reviving coffee and shared (squashed) snack bars excavated from the bottom of my handlebar bag. The descent into Aunay was rendered slightly more dramatic by a gendarme car hurtling past us on an emergency call (probably that his dinner was ready). The last stretch in the gathering gloom necessitated cycle lamps. We must have been 5km form our host’s place when we saw a cyclist coming the other way – what other mad individual was out on a bike at this time of night? It was our host, come to meet us and guide us in to his residence! Thus we arrived at Ricky’s friends, Pierre and Bea, place, at 19.00, tired, wet, cold, but relieved to have made it – just over 90km! Hot showers, hot supper, warm friendship, warm bed – what more could four weary cyclists want? Merci beaucoups, Bea et Pierre!
After our two days of wet, windy wending our way eastwards, we had the luxury of spending Sunday with our hosts Pierre and Bea at their lovely farmhouse and gite. It had rained much of the night but the morning dawned dry and clear. After a leisurely breakfast Pierre drove us into Caen to visit the Memorial Museum of WWII, an impressive and well thought out presentation as to how 1914/18 set the stage for WWII. No heroics, but just sober assessment of not just the fighting, but more difficult issues such as the business of collaboration with the enemy, resistance movements, etc. No glorification. And it didn’t end there, as there was a gallery devoted to the Normandy Landings, as one might expect, and also about what happened after 1945. It rang so true especially considering our apparent headlong plunge into war once again, this time with Syria. “When will they ever learn?” as the song goes….
Pierre picked us up and brought us back for a late lunch of lovely homemade soup, bread and cheese. Then we hosed down our bikes with a jetwash to remove the mud. dried them and oiled them ready for the road tomorrow. A rest followed, then supper and bed – tomorrow, back on the road!