Two weeks today, and I’m off. Blimey.
Moscow, Beijing and beyond beckon, and nerves both emotionally and physically seem to be charging up, as I bid farewell to my very-nearly-85-year-old Mum (on the right at Braunston last weekend having a go at the tiller of our narrowboat the Molly May), and both greet and also very shortly thereafter wave goodbye to daughter Katharine, briefly over in the UK from her new New Zealand home with her partner Mela.
To these two, we meet again in September – an aeon, an awful lot of kilometres, but also just a tiny skip away.
And to Mum – hang on in there. It’s the longest we’ll not have seen each other since my correspondent days in the 80s, but six months will be gone in a flash.
So, suddenly it’s all very serious, prompting me to note just how curiously time stretches, elongates, contracts at times like this, as affairs are tidied up, relationships packaged ready for departure, as body and muscles and, again, nerves, are stretched and exercised ready for 60-80 miles a day, and I get used to the idea of a long separation from partner, friends, choirs, family…
As I’ve wound up deep and rewarding relationships with clients these past 10 days, said goodbye to friends in my choirs and to siblings, parent and sprogs, and prepared to say temporary farewell to our lovely Cirencester home with its cats, hens, cosy fire, Shepherd’s Hut, views from the garden, I think all of us know that, once I pedal off in 14 days time, nothing will ever be quite the same.
Of course, there will be new memories, new friendships, new stories, and great new richness of experience – from four months solo cycling until the first week in August, and then from two further months backpacking with wife Sue on around the world through Indochina, New Zealand and West Coast America.
But even assuming all goes well (why shouldn’t it?), I think that all of us all know that we are approaching an important watershed, an ending as well as a beginning. That’s true of all significant endeavours, and no reason not to set out – for as I’m reminded by my long-distance cyclist friend Chris Smith, quoting Betty Bender:
Anything I’ve ever done that was ultimately worthwhile initially scared me to death.
One moment, it seems an age until I’ll be on the road on April 4 – plenty of time to transcribe those notes that one client needs, to ready the HAPUK and Cantores websites for easy self-maintenance over the spring and summer, to tidy my cupboards and my computers ready for our delightful house-sitters who move in mid-May a couple of days before wife Sue heads off to India for her first volunteering stint.
(And in brackets here, worth noting for those who’ve not already heard this extraordinary story how it came to pass that said house-sitters Peter and Celia, found through the Guardian’s international home-exchange programme, turned out to live literally a couple of kilometres from Kat and Mela in New Plymouth, New Zealand. Мир Тесен, as the Russians say – the world really is rather small).
And then, the next moment, two and three days have suddenly evaporated, and I toss and turn sleepless into the early morning, nervous how little time there is to get everything in order, how I’m going to take to sleeping again in a tent most nights and cooking simply for myself as I go, and ensuring, with physiotherapist Lucinda’s help before I leave (she’s away this week in Los Angeles – HELP!) that ageing neck and shoulders are in best possible form for the coming stresses.
But, as I used to remind myself in the run-up to finals at university, and to major journalistic challenges on the road – however nervous I am about what’s coming, it will pass, and I’ll get through it. Time has that habit of happening whether you want it to or not…
Enough of Meaningful Thoughts. Time to convey again warmest thanks to increasing numbers of you who’ve so generously donated to the good causes I’m supporting.
The total already raised for the Rory Peck Trust, the Humanitarian Assistance Programme of EMDR and my Cantores chamber choir in the Cotswolds (at a 40:40:20 split, to remind) is now well over £1500 – even before I’ve set off. Amazing.