Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Cold snap

February 16th, 2012

Ken returns to BBC Somerset’s Taunton studio, over two years since he popped in before setting off around the World…

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Dropping in

February 16th, 2012

"A travel moon gives your life an exciting international flavour" – today’s horoscope

I’d been a bright but utterly bitter start to the final day on the road. Sharp rather than merely crisp. Buried deep inside heavy winter gloves, the tips of my fingers had throbbed. The rear brake cable had frozen solid, forcing me to have to disconnect it. Moisture ingress from yesterday. Even the higher hub gears felt sluggish.

I’d stopped short in Bridgwater the previous night. Fading light and a busy road. It’d left me about thirteen miles or so to reach BBC Somerset’s Taunton studio the next morning, but I was confident I could manage that without too much drama. Much safer in daylight.

Winding through the still quiet streets of Taunton, I’d stumbled on my local MP. He’d come to wave me off when I’d set out from Fitzhead. But now a Minister of State, I knew he’d business to attend to out of the constituency and wouldn’t be able to welcome me back. Hopeful we’d catch up later.

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9.20am. Outside the studio. I’d just over an hour before joining Emma Britton on air for her Saturday morning Somerset Live show. Intern Rob let me in. We chatted for a while. He’d cycled in as well. Then greeted with a big hug from presenter Emma before she dashed off to make a few last minute adjustments to the running order.

Getting my fully-laden trusty steed into the small studio had been tricky. But worth it. Nice to know these sort of things weren’t staged, mere artistic license. And I’d remembered to switch off my phone moments before wheeling her in. Close call.

Facts from my travels replaced the usual quirky questions for the show’s guests. I felt at ease. Pleased I’d the chance to recount my favourite anecdote. Trials and tribulations of partaking of kumus – fermented mare’s milk – in Kazakhstan. Adding I’d simply no idea you could even milk a horse. Emma almost choking with laughter.

The parting question had been about regrets. Had there been any? No. I’d said. Quite robustly. Although entirely correct, I’d kicked myself a little later. Far wittier response would have been along the lines of …just one… never quite managed to explain pantomime to foreigners… Never mind.

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Milking horses

February 15th, 2012

Ken and his trusty two-wheeled steed drop into BBC Somerset’s Taunton studio for a final chat with presenter Emma Britton on her Saturday morning Somerset Live show. En route home to Fitzhead later the same day – just ten miles remaining. You can listen in – until Fri 17 February – courtesy of the BBC iPlayer – click here.

Ken gets a brief mention at the end of the 10 am news that opens up the show, with the interview proper starting around seventeen minutes in. Shrewd listeners may notice the programme opens with Starship’s "Nothing’s going to stop us now"… Yep.

Such was the nature of the venture, the usual randomly chosen quirky questions have been replaced by a canter through strange facts and figures from around the world. And there’s Abba’s "Knowing me knowing you" in the middle – wondering if the lyric "…breaking up is never easy…" hints towards the future for Ken and his trusty steed. But then there’s Billy Joel’s "Uptown Girl" track a little later…

Ken shares various anecdotes. Stories of visiting a bottling plant in a police car, the horrors of drinking fermented mares milk. The latter almost reducing presenter Emma to tears. The main piece ends with Ken and his trusty steed getting their own traffic report for the final journey to Fitzhead. And yes, the bike really was in the studio…

[With especial thanks to presenter Emma Britton – who, incidentally, also writes and produces her Saturday morning show – great friend and supporter over the last couple of years]

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Around the World in nine hundred days

December 25th, 2011

Aim remains very firmly the same – cycle solo around the World – but now in a little shy of nine hundred days. Continuing east from Austin, Texas, to the Florida coast, and then on to the UK. Still leaves me almost 2,000 miles to cover in a little over a month.

Plans that made sense three or so years ago sometimes have to change. The World a very different place since I set off from Somerset in September 2009. Time now to return home. And, in stark contrast to the advice of Norman (now Baron) Tebbit, I plan to get off my bike to find work…

Naturally, I intend finishing with a bit of panache and style, riding across the UK back to the front door of my beloved Somerset cottage. From where I’d set off, bound for a ferry to France, over two years ago. Expecting to reach it around mid-February. Must remember to pick up the keys from my parents….

You can also listen to me chatting with Emma Britton at BBC Somerset about the change of direction -courtesy of the BBC iPlayer until next Saturday – by clicking here – about one hour 47 minutes into the show.

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On air with the BBC.. from Alaska

August 2nd, 2011

Ken chats once more with BBC Somerset presenter Emma Britton – click here to listen. Available via the BBC iPlayer until 8 August 2011. Interview airs about 2 hours 15 minutes into her morning show. Duration approximately 8 minutes.

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Trouble with telephones

February 14th, 2011

What’s easiest in Australia? Hunt down wild crocodiles at night or find a landline so you can take a call from BBC Somerset’s The Morning Show with Emma Britton? Found eight of the predators the previous evening. Eventually secured one line with a few hours to go. Not easy when you’re a traveller in a nation of mobiles. Key, I’d discovered, is to find a friendly international hotel chain and ask nicely. Explain your predicament.

I’d been quite determined to chat once more to Emma. Refused to believe I couldn’t secure a landline and make it happen. Not in Australia. Besides, rather look forward to the interviews. Feel rather honoured to be allowed to do them live. Trusted, presumably, not to say naughty words or commit other embarrassing faux pax. Not too many ums and arhs. I hope.

And, just in case you’re wondering, I’ve no idea what exactly I’ll be asked on air. Might have a few guesses, but nothing more. All part of the fun. Another challenge on the road. This time intrigued – and absolutely delighted – to hear my own voice in the introduction. Taken from a video clip shot during the height of Cyclone Yasi and posted on the website.

You can listen to the interview courtesy of the BBC iPlayer – just click here – the segment airs about one hour into the St Valentines Day show. Ends with a great Crowded House track.

Right. That’s the easy bit done. Waiting – with anticipation and trepidation in equal measure – for some honest, constructive feedback from an online audience close to my heart. Suffice to say, it might have been my forty #*^ birthday on the day of Cyclone Yasi. But what my parents think still matters as much to me as it ever did!

[Author’s note: Especial thanks of course to Emma Britton and the team at BBC Somerset. And to duty managers Ben, Valentine and Wiremu at Mercure Cairns Harbourside hotel for being so helpful to a perfect stranger and letting me use their landline. Even finding a quiet room to hide away in. The interview with Emma airs between 1hr 03 mins 20 secs and 1hr 11 mins 30 secs into the show. Available on the iPlayer until 21 Feb 11. Please note Ken isn’t responsible for the content of external websites]

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Catching up…

December 20th, 2010

Deciphering dialing codes. Devising a few phonetic phrases in Mandarin. After all, what would she say when she’d ring through to the place I was staying? I’d primed the staff at the small hotel that I was expecting a call from the UK. Actually, I’d written on a scrap of paper – in Chinese characters – "2200 tonight – Emma Britton – telephone – Ken Roberts – Room 7017" – except our names. Far too difficult.

Bit rudimentary. But it worked. Probably helped by the fact that I’d be the only Westerner in town. Literally. A chance to catch up with Emma, host of BBC Somerset’s The Morning Show. It’d been over a year since we’d spoken. That’d been back in Taunton. Shortly before I’d set off. Amongst the things I’d taken along to the studio was a Christmas Pudding, my luxury item for devouring in Bulgaria. Long gone. But there was a Christmas Cake or two waiting in Hong Kong….

[To the surprise of many of his friends, Ken hates the sound of his own voice. And late-night – in China – radio interviews probably don’t find him at his best. But if you’re snowed in (and even if you’re not!) – and chances are you will be if you’re in the UK Europe – you could always listen to Emma’s show on the BBC iPlayer. 0900-1200 week days. White stuff permitting, the piece should be going out on air in the second half of the programme on Tuesday 21 December 2010. To listen live, or catch up a bit later, click on BBC Somerset iPlayer]

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