Mary Bryant: Four Cheeks to the Wind
I wandered into Waterstones this afternoon as I often do and trawled my eyes across the Travel section books (the only section of the bookshop where I can say “yes, I’ve read that one, and that one, and that one too… don’t fancy that one… oh, I wonder if his new book is as good as / better than his previous one” etc…).
Almost without looking, I strolled into the corner that is more travel facts and figures rather than travelogue and noticed a book on a shelf with a cyclist on the front. A woman – looked as though she was cycling in a desert. Mildly interested, I picked up a copy and fanned through the tome (it was a sizable hard back book).
I then noticed that a woman was in conversation with another customer just to my right and they were talking cycling so I hovered, pretending to read when actually it was my ears in action, not my eyes. The woman talking was the author – Mary Bryant – of the book I had in my hand. Confirmation came when I glanced down at the table where there was a notice saying that she would be signing copies of her book.
Once the other customer had moved on, I moved in and I chatted with her about her transcontinental trip. To save me from typing, this is what her publishers website tells you about what she did:
“Unfit, overweight and approaching retirement, Mary Bryant embarked on a two year cycle ride with her partner through fifteen countries and three continents, without backup or support, through areas not usually visited by tourists. Their journey proved that anyone with a dream, ambition or life-long goal can make it a reality.
In 2002 Mary and Warren set off from Calais with heavily-laden bikes, camping gear, pots and pans and numerous changes of clothing. One thousand miles later they arrived at the Mediterranean. They turned left, travelling through Europe, Asia and Australasia, cycling 9000 miles before their trip was tragically cut short.
Mary describes the wonderful people they meet in those out-of-the-way places, away from the tourists. From the mountainous winding roads of Italy to the dirt roads of Cambodia; the rolling surf beaches of Sri Lanka to the stunning temples of Japan; the Indian breakfasts of puri bhaji to the Australian burgers with beetroot; the fields of blood-red poppies in northern France to the sacred lotus blossoms in Thailand; the snow in Istanbul in December to the oppressive humidity of Myanmar in April – all are described in fascinating detail and with humour.”
We chatted about cycling and I told her about my own plans. With her partner, she actually cycled the same journey from Calais to Brindisi although the route was very different to mine, especially as far as the Italian border.
She’s giving a talk at the library on Monday. I’ll go along and see what else she has to say.
I bought the book btw – it would have been rude not to!