Poseidon’s Caprice

Warlingham to Dieppe: Friday 04 August 2017

9:04. We sit outside a Co-Op, just inside Croydon, picking up some supplies to keep us going till we set rubber on French soil again. Dieppe is today’s destination, all being well. A long stretch: sounds like real bicycle touring, doesn’t it?

We’re cheating.

In order to be able to catch our ferry at 5:30pm from Newhaven, we have to train from East Croydon to Lewes, where we’ll then ride the remaining 12k-or-so. So we’ve got a double-decker sandwich of one train journey and a ferry ride between three slices of riding. Phew, metaphors are tiring; probably more tiring than today’s small skips.

Did well yesterday, though, after ten non-touring days. Around 60km in total, and six hours saddle-time. Navigating our way out of London was hella fun, but intricate and time-consuming to the max (four hours to get from St Pancras to Warlingham); exactly the same distance as our ride into Leicester in the morning – more than double the time. Would you Adam and Eve it? 🙃

But, a fun ride. Feels nice to have done a proper ride through the capital: making our way from its beating heart, through the districts, through the outskirts, until we exited Greater London into the beautifully green and rurally feeling setting of Warlingham. So many flavours in one afternoon. Really got to feel the place much much more than any of my other visits there.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only way to experience the world is on a bicycle.

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Perfectly pleasant little bike-skip to East Croydon Station. Perfectly deflating train journey to Lewes – such tolerant, patient, understanding people amongst the passengers aboard 🤔 Hope the coffee I’m waiting for outside this café is able to reflate. Also hope it’s the last train for a while.

One more unavoidable encounter with public transport in a few hours: the ferry.

Newhaven’s a little under 60 minutes away. It’s 12:27 now. We’re supposed to check in at about 15:30, even though it isn’t due to leave until 17:30, so plenty of time. Of course, have been stung more often than once by last-minute hiccups announcing themselves at the worst possible moment – we all have – but, barring a pannier – the pannier – falling off … or a puncture … or getting lost, we should be fine.

And the chances of these things happening are slim slim slim.

“But there are chances.”

Shut up, brain!

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17:34. Sitting on board. Finkel and Einhorn sit below, sandwiched between a multitude of other people’s steeds. Not all tourers, but Ortleibs were conspicuous by their ubiquitous presence on the racks of those with racks. Other riders were clearly off to France for some road-riding; others for touring; others bike-packing. I heard Spanish and Italian amongst us – and it felt good to be part of the weirdo bike brigade boarding together in formation as bemused drivers gazed on.

Before we got on, I heard one rider say he’d done this crossing a number of times – and you just chuck the bikes in a place and leave them. Then I got distracted and missed the bit where he mentioned how they are secured and you leave them with great peace of mind.

That’s because he didn’t say it!

Yup, all leaning on each other – at the mercy of Poseidon. Einhorn is on some Spanish guy’s bike, Finkel’s on Einhorn, but a lesser known bike leans on him.

Solidarity two-wheeled wonders! Look after each other as we would look after you.

I hate leaving my bike unattended; and with the rear panniers and dry-bag attached, too. That’d be some stuff to lose. But we’re all (ahem) in the same boat, so hope this goodness of strangers prevails.

Four hours is a long time. Bagsy first one down when we near Dieppe!

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A Little Bit Different

Melton Mowbray: Sunday 30 July 2017

13:19. A. week has passed. A life has been honoured.

The bikes remain in the garage.

The funeral was on Thursday. Short, sweet and fitting. Memories were shared. Grief was shared. Love was shared. Bread was broken. Life was celebrated. Laughter was raised.

Life moves on.

Life continues.

The bikes came out again yesterday. Pannierless, we wrestled nothing – wobbling along the first 500 metres like a pair of drunks trying to disguise their tipsiness.

But, as the town became a village, and the village became a country lane, control and familiarity were regained, and it felt great to push the pedals round and round, pump some blood around the body, and clear the cobwebs gathering dust.

It had been less than a week since we arrived, already much hardened by our three weeks on the road, and it’s amazing how quickly you can soften up given a week of relative inactivity.

Can’t be sure when we’ll be back proper Tracing-Horizoning again, but we’re inching along the red-tape maze and it feels like the end is in sight. Don’t count your chickens an’ all that, and I already feel like I’ve cursed it, but, yes, I sense we’ll soon be back on the road and making our way Southward again – approaching from the North rather than the East, as originally thought a little over two weeks ago.

Since we set out on this whatever-it-is-we’re-doing, time has seemed so much bigger: minor moments filled with so much new that 24 hours can feel like a week, a month, a year, which is fantastic, and does make you pause for thought when you consider how repetitive a stationary day-to-day life can be if you allow it.

When travelling, I look at yesterday as if it came from another time. I guess we’re used to looking back at events and assuming there are blocks of mundaneness in between, unworthy of remarking or reflecting on – though maybe we should reflect more on why those unremarkable days exist and whether we want more or fewer of them.

Again, despite being stationary for a week now, last Sunday feels so far away: a week full of things not for the action movie silver screen, but the stuff of poetry and verse. A period full of empty: being touched by things I can’t identify or recognise, but that trigger all kinds of responses and reactions.

It’s grief, it’s love – it’s life, in one of those raw moments when you feel and recognise it for what it is; and that is as valuable as hanging off a suspension bridge by your teeth on a fraying elastic-band, or something.

And now it’s time for the life of those living in the human form to move forward.

But again…
…a little bit different.

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