Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Cycling Full Circle

June 17th, 2012

“The world is a beautiful place and the people therein. That’s not to say there is no dissatisfaction, frustration, helplessness, ugliness, sadness, sorrow. It is that, despite these, the instinctive desire of most people to demonstrate kindness to one another flows as living water and their underlying goodness shines as a light in the world” Astrid Domingo Molyneux

Sensual brutality of Bombay. I’d not been there, but it was how I imagined it might be. Vaguely aware of the occasional jolt of the bus as I grasped the imagery of a country I’d not known. Demeaning, desperate squalor. Vibrant colours of women’s saris. Honest writing, the odd rough edge lending Astrid’s story of her two year ride around the world conviction often lacking in more anodyne accounts. It felt personal. I looked up. Few more pages I hoped before I’d need to alight.

I’d read in haste because I wanted as much to get a measure of the author as of the places she’d passed through, the people she’d encountered. Drawing in part on the sections of her journey we’d shared, albeit a few years apart, and an all too brief conversation a few days earlier. Intrigued by a narrative in the present tense, as if riding with her, an unusual, but effective, literary device. As individualistic, and engaging, as her insistence at sailing between continents rather than succumbing to the swift brutality of air travel. A rather graceful solution and one I was quite envious of. Shades of the old Empire.

Descriptions of her departure towards France, coming to terms with the sheer enormity of the journey, held a strong resonance. Romantic. Meandering along the Kennet & Avon canal towpath, pedalling towards Poole. Partaking of perfect scrambled eggs, porridge oozing with darkly-melting muscovado sugar, richly-brewed coffee. The rationale for her choice of route, its elegant simplicity, discarding entire continents for what might, to some, seem superficial reasons, nevertheless making absolute sense to me. Greater rigour would do little to contain the journey within the bounds of the possible. I’d have done the same. And did.

Shared uncertainties on her first foreign shore. A reflective first night, contemplating the scale of the task before her. Both of us choosing to stroll along a quiet beach. Coming to terms with uncertainty, of where one might sleep each night, soon discovering the reassuring network of French municipal campsites, of patisseries and bakeries. Smiling in affirmation at the difficulties she’d faced getting her mobile to work in France. Inevitable teething troubles.

Brief glimpse out of the window. Raining now. Few minutes remaining, hurriedly leaping ahead to North America. Passing through familiar settlements in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon; Glenallen, Tok, Northway Junction, Buckshot Betty’s, the only place to eat in Beaver Creek. She’d even camped at Deadman’s Lake. Early morning arrival into Prince Rupert. And now my stop. Time to disembark.

Astrid’s account of her travels – Cycling Full Circle – is published by Quicksilver Publications and can be purchased securely online through her own website


Postcard from Paradise

April 8th, 2012

I’d been working with a seasoned Features writer, providing the photos and the notes whilst she did the actual copy, for a forthcoming piece in Wales on Sunday newspaper. But that was far from all. Invited to write a chapter for the next edition of the prestigious Royal Geographical Society Expedition Handbook. It’d not pay, but that wasn’t the point. A chance to share what I’d learnt, a real sense I’d something fresh to say. The skeleton I’d shown the editor now neatly overlaid with pencilled scribbling, refinements to strike that very fine balance between inspiring the novice and keeping the respect of more seasoned riders. Quite a few of whom I know well.

I’d also been busy readying for my inaugural talk, selecting photos and sketching out stories, for it was to be an evening of illustrated anecdotes rather than some dull travelogue. Was there to be a book? I was beginning to shift my stance, conceding this was now a possibility. The catalyst had been an unsolicited comment from a journalist, the mention of an engaging light touch style. Not for a while of course, despite a growing passion for writing. Rather too much to do crafting CVs and covering letters to prospective employers.

In the mean time, you might expect the odd piece to appear on the blog, musings from back in Blighty. And a chance to develop writing skills. Incidentally, always interested in suggestions, even commissions, to put together prose for others. Do get in touch.

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