Wow, I have just looked over the “pelerinage” site, at my ‘photos and my route tracking and realised just how little I mounted. OK, work to be done!
Hm, ain’t that always the way? One very important part of the ride was stepping out of that framework and being able to say either “No there isn’t!” or “Yes there is: just turn the pedals and keep Toto heading roughly south!”. To be honest, I never entirely stopped thinking there was work other than pedalling to be done. Right from day one I was telling myself there was a site and blog to create/write (and how little of that I achieved!) From about day three I continued to answer many work related Emails. That was a bit easier than it might have been as I no longer had a clinical Email address. Assuming that the Out-of-Office message I had set the week before before dashing across the road to my leaving do (see One year on and where am I?!) worked, then that told people I had left and referred them to sensible others. Other Email addresses I had also had OoO messages saying I was off on this pilgrimage, not working, and that I was unlikely to answer Emails. In fact, I answered a fair few. I think I helped finish at least one grant application and worked on some paper submissions. I’d be quite amused to look at the sent folder for the period to see what I did do.
But day two was a new world. I had had my first night in my little tent with food and beer, and tiredness and satisfaction, despite some set backs, perhaps because of some set backs, all helping me sleep. I know I slept very well. I woke feeling great, a bit to my surprise and I was amused to rise easily to an early alarm (while my ‘phone still had some battery). I remember padding across wet grass in bare feet with a towel wrapped round my waist to shower and scrub my teeth. I remember admiring the fixed teepees in the camp site and saying a warm good morning to some others, then I packed the tent up, which proved fairly easy, another relief, and off I went.
I remember the run in into Canterbury went through a lovely long phase following the river, “The Great Stour” I see is its proper name. It’s great in aesthetic terms but in volume, width, grandeur, that’s a faintly strange name as it’s not a very big river at all. Perhaps my scales are a bit distorted by living a few miles from the Thames! As ever when you follow a mature river you are sweeping a fairly direct but generally sweeping set of curves as it meanders along and across its near flat flood plain, and that was certainly the case with the Great Stour. I hoped to see kingfishers but didn’t, but there was a heron and the sun was out and the a true sky blue with lots of very white cumulus and not threatening any rain at all. The Constable paintings of the cathedral came to mind long before I got a sight of the steeple.
Then the wonders of the cathedral. I think I have seen it before but I struggle to think when. Perhaps I really hadn’t. Some things felt familiar, mostly the exterior and I really do wonder if that was from paintings and ‘photos. It was truly glorious: it’s a town in itself really as so many of the great medieval cathedrals are with their accretions of buildings sort of flanking them and creating a barrier territory between the gloriously sacred and the boondocks around where the laity lived and working. There’s a buffer or border zone of dwellings and offices for monks, nuns or others with sacred offices. For me it was absolutely crowned by seeing that the cathedral had a nesting pair of peregrines on the main steeple. My new binoculars, bought specially for the trip, came into play for the first time for them and all the gargoyles and other features up on high, inside and out.
In the town I managed to find a cheap pair of glasses to replace my expensive ones which had chosen, not for the first time, to snap with zero provocation somewhere on the downs the day before. I had picked them up to read the map on the tablet and one of the arms had simply broken off in my hand, seemingly mocking me with the challenge of balancing them on my great big nose and just one of my big flappy ears if I wanted to be able to read anything. Clearly planning to make the journey all the more interesting. I was greatly amused and felt a rather vengeful satisfaction that two pounds bought their replacement (in a “pound shop” as I remember it: something nominally or arithmetically awry there but I wasn’t complaining!) I think that was somewhere between 1 and 2% of the cost of the ones those were replacing! I also stocked up with chocolate there (also more than a pound but absurdly cheap). Then, despite a real urge to stay and soak up the cathedral until it went dark, I headed off for Dover.
Coming into the docks in Dover I joined another cyclist, probably a year or two older than me and more in denim/cotton than lycra. He turned out to be Dutch and finishing a six week solitary camping and cycling trip around the UK which had been great apparently, though it had rained every single day! He was impressive but made me feel a bit feeble. He had a hub dynamo, like me, but also a solar panel on his bike and he said that he’d needed both to keep his old ‘phone working. He said that the solar panel had worked usefully despite the grey weather. As by now I had used up most of the power in my various batteries and discovered that he was quite right that the dynamo hub alone wasn’t going to charge everything, I took note.
And that really came back to bite me in Calais that evening as it went dark and Google maps first led me miles, OK, kilometres, away from my hotel, which was really very near the dock … and then in quick succession the tablet, computer and ‘phone all gave up on me. That left me exercising my very poor French asking for a hotel, way away from it, in by now a rather cold, dank, late evening. It was clear that the trip was going to have its ups and downs! I found it in the end and the big bouncer on the door let me despite the pre-paid automatic entry system failing.
I must stop. I’ll add some of the ‘photos tomorrow. Always work to be done eh?!