After a night in a travellers site (who were very welcoming unlike the official camping site down the road) we embarked on a balmy ride through the backroads of Southern England. Having cycled 11000kms it was a thrill to discover just how gorgeous an English Spring can be, punctuated with the odd ale in sleepy weekday pubs. And the sun. Hot but not that hot. And the breeze. Cool but not too cool. After the dry desert lip cracking wind of the Middle East and the Indian humidity this Spring climate is a real blessing.
And the English . We love ’em, being English whippets ourselves, but some can be right rude and clunky. The only times we’ve been crowed at, just for being cyclists, have been in the UK. Once on the way out- “get back in the cycle lane”- as if cyclists shouldn’t be on the road- and on our return through Southampton where a woman went into a frenzy because Jen momentarily wheeled the bike (Jen wasn’t even cycling ) across her path-“You cyclists don’t have your own rules you know.” The woman threatened to call the police.
It makes you wonder if there is something threatening about cyclists for the more uptight Brits. As if the freedom and independence that cycling represents undermines their sense of motorway order.
But the rest of this ragged isle were as kind and curious as the rest of this ragged planet. There was a particulary warm and kind man in a Wiltshire village who gave us long and melodious directions when we got lost on the backroads. His Wiltshire accent was so sonorous and familiar and yet so unfamiliar, an echo of Bristol West Country tones.
And then the last pootle into the city of Bristol along the legendary Sustrans route 4 bike path. Our mate Joe turned up in a boater hat with his ipod playing swing tunes from his pannier rack and Jen’s sister was resplendent on her sit up and beg cycle. And one by one more of our mates turned up until the final few yards and we freewheeled across the “Finish” line- a roll of wallpaper someone had found outside a house- the informal recycling system of East Bristol. Everyone strolled to the local pub for the cheapest ale in town and it was brill to see so many old faces and say hello without having to explain our strangeness. After passing through so many homes that were home to others it was such a relief to be back in our own base. That wonky road sign was our wonky road sign, that charity shop was our broken charity shop, and that terraced house, squeezed in a hundred, thousand others, our home.
Thanks to everyone who has helped us on the way and has been following this blog.
Our ride has been an adventure into the unknown, an unknown that has proved to be human kindness, an endurable care that extends around the planet like a force of gravity.
Don’t believe the hype. Don’t believe the 24hour rolling news that broadcasts terror into your living rooms. Most living is done outside those rooms. And that living is not terrifying. But a world of quiet kind extraordinary giving. Go see.
jen and jet
billy and bertle