Across Continents

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Sluggish scribbles

June 5th, 2012

By late morning I’d drunk as much strong coffee as I’d felt I’d consumed wine late the previous evening. In truth, I hadn’t, largely due to an ingrained inability to consume more than a relatively meagre amount of alcohol without quickly ending up in a harmless sleep. But, all the same, I’d found myself steadily sipping from a large mug, rough in appearance but, thanks to a thick glaze, soft on the lips. Frequent top ups, as if fearful someone else might empty the pot, inadvertently depriving me of an elixir I so desperately needed. The cycle of sluggish scribbling on a note page in my diary, repeatedly shuffling back into the kitchen for more coffee, eventually broken by my friend’s suggestion of a walk around nearby lanes. The short loop he called it.

An otherwise reflective mood had been brightened by the late May sun, tainted a little by the unexpected but gentle humidity. We’d discussed my talk at length late the previous evening, and, much to my surprise, felt sure I remembered all that mattered, and had managed to capture the essence of it in my diary. Sufficient at least to be able to recreate those parts I’d need to refine. And so the conversation was soon drawn to the merits of a suggestion I’d made a few days earlier, that of recording one of our walks for broadcast on the local community station. A pilot I’d suggested, and it’d be next year, perhaps spring would be best? And we’d some experience of radio, as interview and interviewee whilst I’d be out on the road. Shame to let such skills wither, but rather adapt the format. This time I’d ask the questions.

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Graceful presence

June 5th, 2012

I knew immediately that it was her. I didn’t know why I thought this, for my glimpse of her had been just that, and we’d never actually met before. My instinct was not an unfounded or isolated one, for a few friends had also guessed who she might be and had quickly introduced themselves. She’d given talks herself, I was sure, and would understand I wasn’t deliberately ignoring her. Rather, I’d others I must welcome, engage with, whilst waiting for that brief moment when I might be able to slip imperceptibly across to her, with the grace and surety of a trapeze artist reaching out across the void to a distant partner.

I’d invited Astrid along to my inaugural talk about my exploits riding around the world. She too had ridden, as she described it, full circle, returning home a couple of years earlier. Similar distance, and time on the road. But, for the most part, a different easterly route to my own, our chosen paths crossing in France and then again in China, but sharing swathes of North America. I’d wondered later if I should have felt a little trepidation at her presence, as one might when amongst one’s peers. I hadn’t, but perhaps that was stoicism from my travels. She’d understand.

A momentary opportunity. I took it. Introduced myself, perhaps a little too profusely, but I was feeling buoyant, pleased I’d finally the chance to meet her, my emotions heightened by my all too sharp awareness that I’d be delivering my talk in a few moments. Conscious of the gradually assembling audience, of what I imagined would be their expectations. Hardly a daunting prospect, but enough to sharpen the synapses.

As might be expected, the conversation had been brief. With so much shared experience we might have discussed, and minutes before I’d be standing purposefully behind the lectern, this was inevitable. Unavoidable. I’d have to remedy this at a later date. But at least there’d been time for her to present me with a small package. Robust corrugated cardboard outer, embossed with my name and address on a neatly printed label. I’d ripped it open, hurriedly shoved the dispatch note in my pocket, quickly retrieving the contents. A book. Her book actually. A few moments left. Barely enough to thank her for bringing a copy along. An audience beckoned.


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All for a good cause

May 31st, 2012

I’d found myself quietly pleased with Saturday’s inaugural talk – “Two Wheels, One World” – about my travels around the globe with my two-wheeled steed. People seemed to laugh in all the right places, for it was always going to be much more a collection of illustrated anecdotes than a simple travelogue. Lots of questions. Goodly sized audience, giving the venue a rather convivial atmosphere. There’d been wine, albeit not for me until much later, and a fantastic spread to help take the edge off the alcohol. Even joined by my local MP, same chap who’d cut the tape as I’d set off towards France almost three years earlier. But, best of all, we’d raised almost £390 for The Outward Bound Trust. And a few offers of further speaking engagements.

[With especial thanks to Pauline and Bob, Jon and Helen, Jenny, Anton and Linda, Sue and Roger, Tony and Sarah, Nikki, David, Sarah]

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