More pics from the road
More pics from the road
Count six locks until the Glasson Dock Branch comes to fork, go under the bridge, bear left past the boat yard and right over the humpback bridge,right again, that'll get you going in the right direction. I drained my second mug of coffee of the morning and offered my hand to Paul as he repeated the directions with a gentle Wirral lilt. Then i shook Lewins hand (Kate's son) as he stood behind the stable door to the narrow boat and wished me luck. A hug for Kate and thanks to them for inviting me into their home and for helping make last nights gig such a success. Sprocket the dog had spent the morning licking my bare legs in the sun. I took that as a fond farewell and would have happily added a basket to the front of my bike and taken the scruffy little Jack Russel with me. Excitement for what lay ahead and a measure of sadness for leaving new friends all mixed together like a summer cocktail as i turned away from the coast and headed inland. Some people make you feel immediately at ease and expect to be taken as there found. Kate and Paul are both broadly talented musicians. The night before we had an impromptu session in the local pub trading songs. Fiddles, mandolins, guitars and Dobros all making an appearance. It was simple unpretentious music for pleasure and good company. Paul has been patiently teaching me about jigs and reels. One way of remembering the rhythm that accompanies a reel is to repeat the phrase, carrots and cabbages, carrots and cabbages, carrots and cabbages. Molly Mcarthy's reel accompanied the motion of my pedals as I bumped along the narrow canal path away from the docks in the postcard Lancashire sunshine. No wind today...... Perfect. After following the Branch up to the main road as directed, I crossed the bridge waited for a gap in the traffic. The portly boss of the boatyard came out for a natter about the finer points of five string banjo playing and to prod my bike ' oooh that's a finemachine that is, did it used to be a tandem'. In Lancashire everyone stops t o talk and having a bicycle with two guitars strapped to it is always a good place to start. As I conducted an tour of the good ship Harley, what can only be described as a squadron of penny farthings came hurtling down the main road at breakneck speed, piloted at the front by a man with an epic moustache. Not knowing the standard reaction to this kind of situation I offered my best salute. Well received. I wondered if he had a beautiful wife with curlers and a summer dress who had shouted 'go get em ginger' as he left the house this morning, with a promise on hot crumpets on his return. There was no stopping those boys. Today I needed to cover some ground so I stuck to bigger roads. The morning miles slipped away beneath me and the wind stayed at my heels. Not long after a short sandwich stop for lunch the nervous road shot me intravenously into the arteries connecting the broad, flat countryside of Lancashire to the beating heart of Liverpool. The constant rhythm of my day, Carrots and cabbages, dissolved into a medley of shorter and far less enjoyable vegetables, as the traffic surged, pumped, coughed and jerked. Rows of shuttered shops, opaque figures smoking in suburban pub doorways, punters who may have stepped over their own graves this morning for the promise of pub that opens before lunchtime and fresh pack of superkings. Shades of grey soaked the sky like oil on a mechanics rag. I was in the city now.
My cycling shorts are hanging up in the basement drying room of the Youth Hostel in Kendal. I imagine the horrific odour of a world war two submarine as I stumbled into the dank, dark room, fetid and warm with the tang of countless boots and soggy pants hanging from the low uneven ceiling.
My wake up call today was up a twelve mile hill climb from the Bucks Hotel in Reeth to the Tan Hill inn, the highest pub in Great Britain. They keep a tank tracked rescue vehicle up there called a snow cat in case of emergency. That kind of thing fills me with the same boyish excitement I get when I see the training hawk jets scream through the clouds above my head and bank hard and low over the bare hills. A cup of tea later, short and sweet, I say goodbye to Dave and Sarah who I met last night, and who escorted me up the hill with good humour and conversation. I’m starting to think I must taste pretty good as the midges are voting with their teeth… Or whatever they use to nibble on my uncovered bits. The rain pelted hard on the dales all afternoon as the sheep cheered me on toward my sausage and mash stop ay Kirby Stephen. Last nights gig and the night caps that followed already disappearing down the road behind me.
Apart from a minor chain jam between the cassette and the hub today all is running smooth on the Surly Big Dummy. A soggy lay by repair and some good old fashioned swearing got me going fairly swiftly. I write to you now from the luxury surrounds of a Wetherspoons pub where I’m enjoying a cold pint and some thing cheesy masquerading as a chicken and chorizo pasta. I think back to the smell of the drying room. The ever present sky news informs me that the X Factor is under scrutiny for using auto-tune on the warbling, dissonent, watery eyed hopefuls waiting to have their mercifully short careers tuned in to a broadcast car crash to line Simon Cowell’s pockets in the name of entertainment. At what point did auto tune make a difference? Has viewing public suddenly realised that we may not have discovered the new Nina Simone or Mavin Gaye after all? I can’t help but think…. turn off the TV, fire up the stereo, get stoned and listen Jimmy Hendrix, Tom Waits, Billie Holiday, Bill Hicks, read a book, do anything but watch that shite. If people watch rubbish telly they’ll keep making it. But hey, maybe I should lighten up.
Joke of the day….. Two cannibals eating a clown, one says to the other, does this taste funny to you? Nice one Tommy Cooper.
Here are a few pics:
Well, it’s been a while since my last confession as I’ve been Albania playing some shows for British music week with a fantastic band called ‘Tankus The Henge’. I watched a snake catch a fish, swam to Macedonia and ate a lot of cheese. Now I’m in a state of panic due to the lack of preparation time and worries about my general fitness. Today is my last chance to pack the bike and to make final decisions about what to take. Somehow in the middle of all this I’m going to learn to use my new HD camcorder so expect some footage of a red faced man pedaling up a hill like an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping on the blog soon.
For any of you out there, who might like to join me on a leg of this tour, feel free to get in touch. So far the best attended rides look to be Guildford to Brighton on the 8th September. We’ll be congregating outside The Legion, which is at the bottom of town (GU1 3YA) opposite the theatre. They’ll be a gig downstairs at The Legion the night before and it’s free to get in so come down. The other big ride will be from Plymouth to the final show at the Eden Project on September 19th. I haven’t decided on a meeting spot for this yet but it will be an early start as the gig is at 3pm. There’s a discount for anyone who cycles to the gig and you’ll have the option to visit Eden as many times as you like in a year and that all in your cover charge.
So before blind panic sets in I’m going for a pint, I hear beer is a great source of carbohydrates and I think I’m going to need a few……..beers.