Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Breaking Glass

February 17th, 2013

Of their time” he’d said. A friend and colleague. I’d mentioned I’d just bought a copy of Hazel O’Connor’s “Breaking Glass” album. Felt obliged, not least because, in a random moment, I’d decided to go to see her perform in a regional theatre back in Wales, close to where I’d grown up in the 80s. So it’d seemed rather apt that I’d been listening to the album as I’d coasted over the Second Severn crossing into the Principality towards Cardiff. In fact, by the time I’d reached my destination, I’d built up a certain familiarity with all the tracks. Not just the one with the saxophone. Brought to a crawl through the bridge tolls and by stop start traffic on the M4.

I was supposed to be contemplating what anecdotes to recount in a little less than a week. Giving a talk about my two-wheeled exploits in the village hall. Toying with tales of fermented mare’s milk. Seemed a bit topical, given the latest horsemeat scandal. Most recent, I thought, because I was sure there’d been a dodgy pie episode back in the 80s. The whole affair had seemed deserving of humour, not least because what do you seriously expect to find in a pack of “value” burgers? I mean, really. Prime Angus beef? A few cuts of horse meat sound rather better than mechanically recovered beef, surely?

My Dad had seemed a little surprised I was going alone to watch Hazel O’Connor. Disbelieving. So, I’d gently reminded him that my ticket was rather less than the one he’d just got for another 80s act. And I’d booked one of a pair of seats left. Well, you never knew who you might end up sitting by…..

[Ken will be giving his talk – “Two Wheels One World” – in Fitzhead’s Tithe Barn at 8pm Friday 22 February 2013. Admission £3]


Neither Jam nor Jerusalem

February 10th, 2013

Hardly the most striking of epiphanies I’d admit, but I’d woken to the stark realisation that it was now a year since I’d finally ridden back to Somerset . Just a year. I lay there pondering this for a while, before the abrupt interruption of the bedside alarm. Not unexpected, for, even beneath my overgenerous duvet I could sense the warmth in the room, aware that the heating had already cut in as it was meant to do shortly before I rose. But it was a Sunday. I could afford a little lie-in.

I’d returned to the world of work about six months earlier. Found myself a suitably challenging second career, rather than simply a job, immersing myself in all that it offered. After all, why settle for being good, surely better to be the best. A sound aspiration at least. Especially when there’s skills from the road, and a few from a previous life, that could be put to good use. And there’d still been time to bid my tenants farewell and return to my cottage. And to audition for the WI. Not, I hasten to add, for a calendar, but as a speaker.

I’ve already given a few talks to local groups, with a couple more planned for later in the year. Heartily recommended to anyone with a tale to tell. Confirmatory note through the letterbox. Warmly welcomed on arrival. Tea and cake in abundance. Attentive audience. No jam as such, save for a generous dollop on the odd fruit scone, nor rapturous recitals of Jerusalem. No bad thing really if you’ve ever heard my efforts at singing, for I’d no doubt feel obliged to join in. Like my linguistic ability, very much enthusiasm over ability. Alarm once more. Time, I suppose, to get up. Much to do.


Tie a ribbon

September 30th, 2012

The Carnival Queen was late. I was pleased. Secretly you understand. Quietly hoping the residents would soon have her engrossed in conversation, dwelling longer than she might otherwise have intended. I’d arrived at the care home, a rather plush affair in the Somerset countryside, a little earlier, intending to chat for a bit shy of an hour to the guests about travels with my trusty two-wheeled steed. Instead thwarted by the technical trolls, obliged to quickly devise a new means of keeping my expectant audience entertained. Taking a modicum of comfort from the pageant princess’ delayed arrival, for it bought me breathing space and a chance for a little creativity.

I’d miss the opportunity now to head into nearby Wellington and search for a copy of Geographical magazine, the latest edition out that day. Eager to see a small piece I’d written actually in print. Just a few hundred words. And one of my own photographs. But pleasing nevertheless, a honour simply to have been asked to compose a contribution for such a prestigious publication.

Writing had become a pleasure, a cathartic release, another means to share experiences with others. Admittedly, on the back burner for the last few months, for I’d embarked on a second career and, as ever, keen to establish myself, especially so as I’d found something that absolutely hit the mark in terms of playing to what I perceived to be my strengths, whilst keeping me suitably challenged. No half measures. After all, in my book, mediocrity is a political system in Australia, not a philosophy for work.

Still, I’d managed to see more wildlife the previous weekend than in the last couple of years. But I suppose that’s Longleat for you. You can never have enough meerkats. Actually you can. About fourteen. Sociable chaps rather than solitary individuals. Only disappointment was the recreation of an African village. Full marks for the wet season, but the rains appeared to have flushed out the child soldiers, refugees, and not single UN funded five star in sight. Never mind.


Two Wheels, One World

April 13th, 2012

For more information about the Silver Street Centre, including location and parking, click here. See you there!


Fade to black

February 19th, 2012

Trusty steed in China

Found myself wondering what’d take the longest. Riding around the world, or reaching my fund-raising target – at least twenty thousand pounds – for The Outward Bound Trust. The cycling part of the challenge might now be complete, but there’s still a long, long way to go.


In fact, eliciting donations seems far harder than the pedalling – no, not seems – actually it is. You can help of course by making a safe and secure gift to The Trust via my JustGiving page – simply click on the button below. Can’t miss it.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
What next then? Forgive me, but it’s only been a week or so since I came off the road. No more refrigerator living. So, plans a little fluid, but beginning to comfortably take shape. Enough for me to be able to share a brief flavour at least.
It’s all about sharing, encouraging others to pursue their own challenges. Getting them to realise they can achieve much more than they think they can. How you may ask? The main-stay will be giving talks about the whole experience – collections of (hopefully) amusing anecdotes rather than dry chronology – if you’d like me to come and provide an evening’s entertainment, do get in touch via my contacts page – click here.
Brown bear - Grizzly - in captivity - near Anchorage, Alaska
I’ve also a small writing commission for a very august charity. Plans to appear at the Royal Geographical Society’s autumn Exploration weekend next to the equally prestigious Royal Albert Hall. Keen to develop the website into a useful resource for fellow long-haul touring cyclists, compiled with an engineer’s eye – as well as my City & Guilds qualification in Bicycle Maintenance, in real life I’m also a Chartered Engineer.

Sleeping under the stars - Gobi desert - China
And a book? Consider me a bit harsh if you must, but I’ve read a good number of travelogues and the sort, and vanishingly few meet the Gold Standard – that of wider public appeal. Beyond family, friends and devoted cycling fans, or whatever else the mode of transport might be the author used. And a book isn’t a blog. A very different beast. A significant undertaking.
Chinese truck stop - Western China
True, I’ve got the notes for a book – almost 1,800 posts for starters – but no illusion about the sheer amount of effort required to even have a chance of producing something I’d be content to put my name to. And it’d have to offer something different to the many passe accounts out there. Fill a gap in the market. And, much to my own surprise, I’ve an inkling of an idea.. something where the precursor is to have ridden around the world. Which narrows the competition just a bit…
Azerbaijan border sign - in Republic of Georgia
Futuristic musings aside, I’m hoping to appear on 10Radio’s Friday morning Community Show on 9 March 2012. Discussing the transition back to a more conventional existence, as well as touching on what I’ve learnt. And I’ve an idea presenter Pauline won’t let me out of the studio without checking out my legs… All in the best possible taste. More details to follow closer to the show.
Sunset at Deadmans Lake, Alaska
Oh yes, and contrary to the advice from the then Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit back in the 1980’s, I’m getting off my bicycle to find work… But for now at least, time to bring the daily blog posts to a close. It’s been great fun, and I’ve certainly enjoyed the writing – do hope the various stories have been as much fun to read!

So, thank-you for all your love and support

Yours appreciatively

Ken, and his trusty two-wheeled steed Emma


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