Friday, 21 June 2013

I'm Alive!!

Well, I'm back. I stayed the distance; I lasted 3 weeks. I got a tan. I didn't die.

Beyond that... well, you'll just have to come and see the show, won't you?

Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Bitch on a bike

So... 3 and a half weeks to go. Knee still iffy and reminding me so every time I climb a (crunch) step, but I am going. As in: 'I am planning to begin the journey as planned via bicycle, everything that happens subsequently is as yet unknown'. Fact is, I don't care how I get there, even if that involves dumping the bike in a hedge a couple of miles outside Caen and hitching to Barcelona with a limp. The adventure is in the going.

I've put back on the 5 kg that I lost a few weeks ago. This also being to fault of Worthing (see last post). Since moving in with my beloved Keith I have turned into a hybrid of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, Nigella and a Stepford Wife. I am obsessed with making home-made ice cream (5 different flavours in my large silver fridge/freezer right now) and boiling hams. Worthing is like a comfort-eating Wicker Man.

Bought some new padded shorts, but sadly have acted under the delusion that my arse is a size 14. Turns out its not. Circulation in the bottom half of my legs is limited, but waist looks tiny. Bit above waist is spilling over like a chocolate fountain. I look like one of those men with tiny legs and giant, hard bellies. Like someone who really shouldn't be allowed to wear shorts.

Been out on my bike. Keith has been very encouraging, I have been a pain in the arse, concocting excuses not to go, offering sexual favours in lieu of cycling and generally moaning ('You said there'd be no more hills. What's that in front of me? A fucking hill. What's that behind me? A fucking bastard'). Yes, I said that. He is a truly wonderful and tolerant human being.

I had a practice putting my tent up in the garden. Thought it might be good to sleep in it for a night to try it out, but I'm too scared. Too scared to sleep 20 feet from my back door. Good grief, what hope do I have of sleeping in 19 different French and Spanish fields? It won't be the cycling that does me in, but my morbid fear of imaginary noises in the night. I figure that once I'm out there, I'll have no choice. Character building? Utter stupidity? Something like that.

Hey, wouldn't it be funny if I returned from a trip designed to beat my neuroses, more agoraphobic and anxious than when I went? Hilarious. At least I'll have a nice big house to hide myself away in for the next 12 years. Maybe Worthing has hidden benefits after all.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

(Almost) scuppered by Worthing

I moved home 3 weeks ago. This seemingly unrelated event has threatened to scupper my trip.

I have moved from Brighton to Worthing. It's not Worthing's fault. No one wishes you well when you say you are leaving Brighton for Worthing. It's more like you have told them some bad news, like you've put your back out or your kitchen flooded. They presume that moving to Worthing has not been a choice, but rather a necessity resulting from some unfortunate circumstance as if the notion that anyone would move to Worthing by design is an unfathomable concept. This converation ultimately leads to the one (and possibly only) positive thing that people can muster when told that you are moving to Worthing: 'You get a lot more for your money in Worthing'. This is true. I have moved from a one bedroom, ground floor flat to a house. A whole one. With stairs. That's what you get for your money in Worthing: stairs, fucking loads of them. I haven't counted them, but at this moment I feel like I should. It's bugging me now. I really want to go and count them, but I won't because that would be giving in to the ruminations and you wouldn't know anyway as it is not really possible to indicate the passing of time in writing.       I'd have to leave gaps like that to suggest that I have been elsewhere and that time has passed in my absence. Or I could be deceiving you and be tapping the space bar having never left my sofa where I am sitting with my right leg elevated and an ice pack strapped to it. Yes, see, there is a point to this: having lived a largely stair-free existence for many years, the new physicality of stair ascent and descent has revealed something new; my right knee makes a terrible crunching sound when I climb stairs and is swollen and sore after 19 days in my new house. Bollocks. I am so unfit, I need an ice pack after the return trip from the bathroom for a wee. This is not looking good.

Spookily, stairs feature quite heavily in the show itself being the cause of my mental disintegration all those years ago, so its apt that they should try and fuck me over again.

Anyway, I'm still going, gammy knee or not.

I'll be looking out for a bungalow on my return.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

69 days...

Oh shit...

Just over 2 months to go.

Bike training has failed so far. I've been out twice, both times along Brighton seafront. Once I went west to Worthing for eat-all-you-can Chinese with my daughter, Jess and grandtwins. Second time was the next day when I went east to Saltdean for tapas lunch with pal, Karen. Neither journey involved hills, any substantial mileage or major effort (although there was a rotten headwind) and both involved stuffing my face. Not good.

Other excuses include moving house in 12 days time (not just moving house, but moving in with bloke of 9 years standing after living 56 miles apart for all that time - major), working away for most of each week living in a Travelodge and weather. None of these are particularly valid excuses. I'm starting to get a bit scared of my current physical state and the swift passing of the days towards May 27th.

On the plus side, I've lost about 4kgs. Part of this success is purely due to changing my measure from stones and pounds to kilos. I don't know what kilos mean so I am not getting fixated on certain weights that I am used to being and getting a mental block about crossing the line from one stone to another (is this just me?). Kilos mean nothing apart from the fact that I weight less of them than I used to, so I presume that to be progress.

Other contributor to diet success has been due to not eating as much food. That's the secret.

Today, on a rainy Sunday, I am planning my route. This has entailed getting a map of France, getting a pencil, drawing a straight line from Caen (ferry port) to Toulouse, a straight line from Toulouse to the sea and a wiggly line around the coast to Barcelona (which annoyingly doesn't feature on a map of France). Drawing a straight line from Caen to Barcelona would mean cycling over the top of the Pyrenees. Nuff said.

Next stage of planning involves avoiding motorways and locating campsites. I have learned that large parts of France have no campsites, probably because no one wants to stay there. On my pitifully slow bicycle, sorry, legs, I'll be spending days and days in these 'undiscovered' corners of rural France. Goody. Perhaps I will ride down the motorway after all.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

10 Reasons Why

I feel I should explain some context around this madventure, which whilst potentially appearing somewhat lightweight to the seasoned gap year traveller of today, is actually an enormous challenge to a personage of my calibre and vintage:

10 Reasons Why

1) I have been a Mum for 26 years. This type of thing has not been possible for my whole adult life. Children are funny about being made to cycle 800 miles. It wears their stabilisers out.

2) My youngest off-spring has reached an age where he can be left unattended, although the last time I did this he got arrested, so maybe scrap that as a reason.

3) I am too old to know what a gap year is. We just left school and signed on for forever and no one made us do a 'Back to Work' course. Ha! I didn't go on a plane until I was 16. We didn't have a phone in our house until I was 14. New music was only available by going to the phone box, queuing up (there was always a queue) and dialling 160 for Dial-A-Disc to hear one song a day. If you rang again in the same day, you got the same song. For the whole day. We only had to hope that Disco 45 (magazine) had the words of the chosen song that week, or we were fucked for singing along. In the phone box. Several kids with ears glued to one receiver. I have gone too far with the 'In my day...' thing...

4) I have always wanted to be an elite athlete. I am delusionally convinced that I will return from this trip as an Olympic hopeful. Many things have prevented this ambition from coming to fruition, including dodgy Achilles tendons and a general lack of long-term commitment to pretty much anything that involves physical effort. My daughter used to tell her teacher that her Mum had been in the Olympics. I'm not sure the teacher ever bought that one. Shot putt would have been my best hope.

5) I am a weed. I still check under my bed. And behind the shower curtain. And sometimes in my shoes.

6) 12 years ago something happened in Barcelona that made me an even bigger weed. I came home with not just a silhouette of a bull sticker, but a fairly debilitating anxiety disorder. That's why I'm going to Barcelona. To take it back; I've still got the receipt.

7) I went to a Henry Rollins gig (twice) last year. He said: 'Every morning I say to myself: 'What can I do that will scare the shit out of myself today?'' I thought: 'Fucking hell, yeah', then had a panic attack about the queue at the bar. Henry also said the word 'intense' 17 times.

8) I went to The Adventure Travel Film Festival (go, its a cracking weekend full of testosterone and slightly damaged, but very friendly, people) and saw a film about a man who canoed solo 3000 miles down the Congo. When asked why he had done it, he said 'Because I was scared'. I thought: 'Fucking hell, yeah', then made Keith check the inside of my sleeping bag for spiders.

9) I have never been anywhere on my own (see 2) apart from 2 days in Paris where I went a bit strange. I've certainly never camped by myself, not even indoors.

10) I needed an idea for an Edinburgh show.

11) I want Henry Rollins to think I am cool.

There's probably more reasons, but they'll do for now...

Bike update: Bike shop man says bike gears cannot be sorted without special 1980s French bike spanner/tool/thing. Lesson from this: there's a reason why old bikes are cheap on ebay.

Bike dilemma remains unsolved. Anyone out there with a spanner suitable for a Maillard freewheel: I love you. Please can I borrow it?

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Bike

The bike came from ebay. It has 10 gears with a tight span at a high gear ratio. This means the chance of me managing to cycle up a hill is even less than usual.

I hate hills. If I can't get somewhere without cycling along Brighton seafront and then walking when the road starts to tilt; I drive. I hate hills. More evidence to support that statement? My original plan was to cycle from Bilbao to Barcelona - a distance of around 500 miles, but then on perusing the map I spied not merely a hill, but a mountain range. Big Spanish fuckers. So, now I am cycling from the Channel to Barcelona which is around 800 miles. 300 more miles of cycling to avoid hills. I hate hills.

Keith (my beloved and a life-long cyclist) told me what to say to the person at the bike shop to get him to replace my gears for hill-friendly ones (that's an engine, right?). I rang the bike shop and said some words the like and meaning of which I know not. I don't know what's worse; having to admit you're an idiot or demonstrating that you are one whilst attempting not to be. I think that dropping into the conversation that I would be cycling 800 miles alone on this 30 year old virtually gearless bike with this 45 year old virtually stranger-to-exercise body either convinced him that a) I did in fact, despite what was coming out of my gob, know what I was talking about and was a seasoned cyclist, or b) I was not very well and should not be alarmed.

Apparently, I've got 24 and I'm getting 28, which will make it easier 'but not as easy as I'm sure you'd like it'. How dare he. 'Nah, I love hills', I enthused, 'more of a challenge'. I didn't say that. That would make me look like an idiot.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

89 days...

'Training' begins

I was considering on how important it was to carry the least amount of weight on my trip. I was obsessing over whether an extra 43 grammage of tent was too much when it occurred to me that the biggest weight I will be carrying is me and that 43 grammes is less than the weight of decent sized poo (probably, its not like I've weighed one or anything).

I need to get thin(ner) and fit(ter). I need to start 'Training'...

Day One: I ate all the remaining chocolate in my house for my breakfast, so I wouldn't have to eat it on other days.

I went swimming. There are no heavy petting signs any more, which must mean that heavy petting is allowed when it wasn't in the 1970's. I wonder why.