It’s has taken me a long time to write up the last little day of my travels, so to make up for it you have a bit of waffle to go with it.
The ride from Aylesbury to Combe was uneventful, but pretty much what I expected, after all I was following a route I knew for the first time in almost 3 years. The trouble was that suddenly following a known route made it boring, I knew every junction ahead of me, every hill, I knew exactly how far there was to go. The unpredic- tability was gone, though as it turned out not entirely. The closer I got the more I thought about that pint of beer in my local, the Cock Inn in Combe. It was a vision I have had in my head for a long time, something that would mark the end of the journey. For those that don’t know, there is nothing in Combe other than the pub, so I rather liked the idea of finishing such a long journey is such an ‘insignificant’ place. I made the last turning on the back road to Combe, just one last little hill to enter the village, a hill that I hardly noticed and seemed so small after all those hills and mountains I had crossed. I entered the village, nothing had changed, it all looked exactly the same. I arrived at the green, the pub being on one side, so I did a quick lap to see it from all angles and bring back the memories, then pulled up at the pub. I strode proudly up to the door and without breaking my stride pushed down the handle and went to enter, but my body crashed against the door in a very undignified manner….the bloody place was shut! It was a cold March day, I just sat outside, back against the wall, a cold wind blowing. So here I was, the final turn of the pedals had been made, I was no longer cycling around the world, I had finished, from now on I can say I have ‘cycled’ around the world. So how does it feel? Actually, nothing like I had imagined, I didn’t feel joyous or jubilant, though I did feel content. As I said to the students in Philadelphia recently, I don’t think it as a great achievement, but it most certainly was a fantastic experience.
I rode the 200m back to my house (See photos, before and after the trip) and introduced myself to Dave and his family living there. I spent 2-3 hours there. It seemed strange being back at my home, but with other people living there, other people’s furniture in a very different layout to my own. I was shocked by the amount that the plants in the garden had grown. From there I cycled the short distance to stay with Lorna and Brian. They had kindly bought me some white chocolate (did I mention I like white chocolate? Everybody I visit seems to have some for me!), but Demelza and Tim had found it and already eaten it, surely proof enough that it is damned good stuff. In the evening I went bell ringing at Woodstock. They had their best turnout in months, partially as some of them knew that I would be there. It was great to see so many friends, nobody had changed, but it felt strange that their ringing had advanced so much. I am still on my little UK tour of visiting family and friends, I have been made very welcome everywhere. It has been a real joy to catch up with everybody. We went to the Woodstock Arms after ringing, at last that pint of beer was in sight. The pub was shut!
As I finished my journey I thought about how I would like to live life when I eventually returned. I would really like to live life simply, a small place to live, few possessions, no clutter. Right now I feel sure there will be another trip, so the idea is to keep life simple so that I can easily pack and be back on the bike at a moments notice, easy. As I did some washing up I picked out a pair of scissors. Just looking at those scissors made me realise that it might not be quite so simple. Even something so small and simple is just part of our everyday lives. Could I really live without a pair of scissors? I could use the tiny pair I have on my Swiss Army knife, but are they really robust enough for the day to day uses? It is going to be a challenge. First things first though, I would need a new phone. I checked out the deals and made a decision for a new sim card and went into a shop to sort it all out “We just need your name, address and telephone number” I was told “I can give you my telephone number in a few minutes when you have told me what it is” I replied. “I need it before you can go ahead with the purchase”, “I don’t have a telephone number, that is why I am in here trying to sort one out”. “We have to have one. You can just give a number of one of your family or friends”, “I don’t have any family or friends, at least none that would want to speak to you anyway”. “Don’t worry, it’s just so that we can get hold of you if we need to”, “Well, given the fact that I don’t have a phone and I am just about to by a mobile number from you, if you want to get hold of me I think that number would be the best place to start, don’t you?”. “I am sorry sir, we have to have a number for you before you can buy a sim card”, “So you are telling me I can’t buy a phone unless I already have a phone?”, “Yeah, I guess so”. Scissors and phones are already making my life too complicated. Is it possible to live in Britain without a house full of stuff?
Here’s a little story that I forgot to put in the last entry. A few weeks back I booked the flight home, then printed off the ticket. It was only when I saw the printout that I saw I had mistyped my surname, I had written Harwppd…oops! I called the airline to book the bike on the flight and asked they to correct my name, “That will be $75 please”, “$75! For changing two characters”, “Yes, we have to recreate the whole e-ticket”. What a rip off! I called back the following day to check the bike was booked on and as it was a different person tried again to get my name corrected, the answer was the same. “So what happens if I leave it and just turn up at the airport?”, “You can do that but they will charge you $95”. I was really pissed off at my own stupidity and at them for trying to rip me off. I had visions of turning up at the check-in and having a good argument about it but getting nowhere. Then I read a book about attracting things towards you by positive thoughts. It suggested visualising the desired outcome and even creating dialogue and saying it out loud. I thought it was worth a go, there was nothing to lose. I didn’t bother with the dialogue but I did visualise a friendly conversation and them eventually correcting the name for a reduced fee. The day arrived, I turned up at check-in, handed over my passport and started sorting out my baggage waiting for the inevitable. I saw the puzzled look on the woman’s face and asked “Is there a problem?”, “Yes, there is. The office staff are useless, they have spelt you name wrong”. This was sounding good “Oh dear! Aren’t they silly?” I replied. I was instructed to go and see another woman around the corner and she would sort it out. With this woman I had the cheery conversation I had envisaged, job sorted. Final cost….nothing! Blimey, it works!
So that just about wraps up what is probably the last entry on this blog. I have to say I have enjoyed writing it, it has made me reflect on what has happened, what I have seen, the people I have met, the conversations I have had. Without all your comments and emails I would probably have lost the desire to continue with the writing, but knowing people were out there reading this stuff has made it worthwhile. So thank you for all you words of encouragement, whoever you are, friends, family, people I have met, people I have never met. It’s been fun having you as ’company’ along the way. Thank you.