Adventures In & Out Of The Saddle

I’m so glad that it is now March. It seems that someone has told the people who control the weather to turn off the fridge and as a result we are slowly shuddering into what feels like the very first days of Spring. Saying such a thing does of course guarantee that we plunge back into frost-bitten mornings and evenings next week but the trend is definitely here to stay. Not that my cycling activities have been affected much by winter. They continue regardless of the climatic conditions or indeed the people with whom I am obliged to share the roads of the Oxfordshire-Berkshire borders (see previous posts).

I have however, not written much on here of late. Well, in the last ten days or so, so here is a bit of a catch-up.

Last Saturday I had the chance to meet up over coffee with a lady called Barbara Frost. She is a retired florist – she used to run the now defunct flower stall on platform 4 at Reading station if you were ever familiar with it – but now spends here life setting herself challenges of various kinds. She has cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats (rather painfully by the sounds of it), run the London Marathon (via the Reading Half-Marathon) and is now about to plonk her backside back in the saddle and cycle from Rome to Reading. She sets off at the start of May. We were first in contact a few weeks ago – I can’t quite remember if she stumbled upon me or if I stumbled upon her – but as she is cycling for charity (the Buscot special baby care ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital), I gave her a copy of Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie to read. Now clearly I cycled south and she is heading north and as it turns out she is taking a more direct route along the Italian Riviera to Nice then north through the Rhone Valley to Lyon and finally to Reading via Paris, but I hope it was of some use & interest to her. She said that she had enjoyed the read. On the terrace of Costa Coffee in Reading she explained her plans and her motivation but much of the conversation was not about cycling but about her fascinating family background. She mentioned in passing that her mother had Polish origins and that she had spent the war years in Poland. I was curious so delved a little deeper. Barbara’s mother had actually lived through the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto. She was jewish so, as you can imagine, the story was at the same timeย fascinating & tragic with several members of her close family (grand-parents, uncles etc…) becoming victims of the regime of terror that reigned over that part of Europe at the time. Listening to her talk reminded me a little of watching the old documentary about the bombing of Monte Cassino in southern Italy when I was researching the book. So much of the history of the first half of the 20th century is noย longer told first hand. The documentary had featured interviews with the soldiers and civilians who had been in Cassino at the time of those destructive events and although Barbara herself had not experienced life in warn-torn Poland herself, the picture she painted had been heard first hand from her mother. It was a riveting listen and worthy of a book in its own right. The picture here shows her pressing the flesh at Reading station yesterday. I wonder if she managed to flog any flowers for old times’ sake.

We talked relatively little about her cycle but I hope to catch up with her again at the start of April and perhaps that will be an opportunity to do so. Barbara has her own website – Going The Distance – where her adventure will play out on cyberspace in a couple of months’ time.

My literary adventure continues a pace. It was nice to see that sales of Good Vibrations added an extra digit last weekend! The next additional digit will take a little longer in arriving of course but I’m very happy indeed with the four that I currently have. Sales may be helped more than just a bit in the coming weeks as the masterpiece of cycling adventure becomes available as an eBook on Waterstone’s, Apple’s iStore, Kobo & Lulu. I’m working with a company called the eBook Partnershipย who have produced a beautiful ePub file of Good Vibrations which I hope will be available for download before the end of March. I can then start stressing about eBook sales through five outlets rather than just the one! Availability of the paperback has now hit the dizzy heights of Amazon simply having it ‘in stock’ rather than ‘in stock: only 3 (etc…) copies remaining’. I am hopeful that they may have invested in an entire pallet worth of copies but I think that may be asking for too much. Waterstone’s continues to also stock the paperback as do a selection of the country’s finest bookshops!

And as all the finest news programmes say, ‘And finally..’ the London Cycling Book Clubย event in, err… London on the 29th March now has its own listing in Time Out magazine! Please come along if you can but if you can’t, watch this space as later today I’m being interviewed by a journalist for an article in one of the country’s leading (if not the leading) cycling magazines about my experiences along the road to Brindisi. The adventures of a cycling author continue…

Sunday update (4th March): The interview went well and the article about touring by bike – ’10 Steps To Touring’ – should appear in the June issue of Cycling Plus magazine (issue 262).

What do you think?