Coming to Rest on Platform 3
Thats it I suppose.
One small era for me has finished.
It started one day when I decided to go on a long journey, and I thought then that it would finish when I reached the southerly most city in Argentina. But it didn’t. Instead I feel like this chapter of my life has just now come to an end 18 months after finishing the physical bicycle journey. I’m sitting on platform 3 at Bristol train station, waiting for the 1 O’clock to take both me and Achilles back to Manchester.
Yesterday evening I gave a presentation and did a small book signing at Bristol Grammar School, and that event was the last of a miniature tour of the country promoting my book. And now I feel like ‘Take A Seat’ has been completed – what started out as something that could easily have been brushed off, curtailed and forgotten, turned into a two year journey, a documentary and a book. Only here though, under the cavernous and translucent station roof has the sun chosen to shine down and allow me to believe this is real. I think people call this smelling the roses. I’m doing that now. This instant. It won’t last long, I’ll get whisked back into frantically pondering the near future, so I’m writing this moment down to ensure that I can recall in future what it felt like to feel like something has been completed. Rarely do things feel completed, and rarely are they I suppose – its so difficult to identify an ending to one thing and a beginning to the next, reality has a funny way of braiding life’s stories almost seamlessly together.
I spent the last 3 days traveling with Ben Scott down from Manchester to Bristol on Achilles the tandem, the very same Achilles that has propelled me further than any other machine I’ve ridden in or on. Except for planes. But they don’t count.
From Chorlton street we cycled south only unsteady for a mile or so, Ben quickly adapting to ‘handing over the reins’ and relaxing in the warm and lazy Sunday traffic. Soon we were immersed in the saturated greens of the english countryside, made all the greener by a cloudless blue sky. With wanderlust often taking my mind away from my own shores I sometimes forget that I live on a very special island indeed. After only a couple of hours back in the saddle I was reminded of this again. In the mid-afternoon we stopped in Wybunbury for a relaxed pint knowing we only had twenty miles to cover to get to my friend Nick’s house a little north of Telford. We sat at a little wooden table in the pub’s beer garden. In front of me was an old and immaculately maintained traction engine blowing off steam in front of the pub. Behind me was an old church, one that I learnt had had its tower repaired and straightened by engineers that went on to take a few degrees of dangerous lean off the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The sun shone warm on the bright red ‘Pimms’ umbrella above us, the grass was green and the only sound was one of sleepy conversation and the hissing of steam from the engine that minutes later made its way solidly up the small road from where we’d come. This is England – the picture postcard England that still thankfully exists.
In less than two weeks I leave this pleasant land once more to craft the opening paragraphs of the next small chapter of my life in the big country with Ernest Greenwald. I’ve lost count of how many chapters I’ve had so far, but however many I’ve had, Ernie has had many many more.
Importantly though, I can now, finally, say that I’m pretty happy with the last one, the ‘Take A Seat’ chapter. It has formed the foundations for my new career – career sounds so clinical, but ‘life’ in this context sounds too pretentious and cut’n’dried. They say that if you do what you love come what may, you’ll never work another day in your life. I feel like, thanks to the encouragement and help of thousands of people, I might just be starting to believe that for myself.