The year is slowly drawing to a close… and I haven’t got very far with the new book. I’ve so far written about 6,500 words (which equates to about 5% of the final total unless it turns out to be a modern-day War & Peace). I’m not worried yet as I still have just under six months to the date of publication – the 10th June 2014 – just a few weeks before the arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire but more importantly in publishing terms just a few days before Father’s Day here in the UK. Apparently sporting books have two peaks, one at the start of June and the other one in the lead up to Christmas. So that’s the official date of publication although I would like to think that I might have a few copies available for the end of May when I have been invited to speak as part of the Ripon Cycle Festival. Ripon is one of those lucky towns which will be hosting the whoosh of Tour de France cyclists and I will be speaking in the Cathedral Library (better keep it clean) on Friday 30th May. More details on the Le Tour Ripon website. Back to the book… I say I’m not yet worried as I know the timescale that was involved in writing the first one; I started during the Easter holidays in 2011 and had a finished manuscript by the end of June so that was about four months. I do however want to meet my deadline well in advance as this time around I need to avoid the pitfalls that I didn’t know existed before I published “Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie“. I checked every chapter, every page, every paragraph and every word… but I was still finding typos in the text weeks and months after publication. They were eradicated but a few are still in there. Apologies if you’ve spotted any. I’ve asked a friend, sorry, I’m paying a friend to do a full and thorough proof read of each section of the book as I write it. I’m also looking into commissioning a professional artist to create a quality cover. The cover of book one was my own creation designed with the help of a piece of software that I use at work every day called Smart Notebook. It’s very good at manipulating images and text but some people do wonder why the lighthouse in the picture is obscured. They have a good point. Anyway I met a lady at a market recently whose art is simple but very striking. She lives locally and when I went back to her stall to give her a copy of the book she told me that her partner had actually read it! It was a good sign. I’ll be meeting up with her early in 2014 to see what she do. I’ll also use the opportunity to ask her to create a matching new cover for ‘Crossing Europe…‘. I know that once I get into the writing it will be addictive; it was so enjoyable back in 2011 reliving the journey across Europe in print. I met a friend that I hadn’t seen for quite some time a few weeks ago and I spent ten minutes recounting my 2013 route; even after only a few months I was describing moments that I hadn’t thought about since the moment they happened. It was a nice feeling.
So… the exclusive extract? Here it is:
“Part 1: Greece
Sunday 30th June 2013
I had tucked into a hearty breakfast on the flight from London to Athens in the expectation that I would be burning it off later in the day cycling under the Mediterranean sun. My plan upon arrival was to reassemble the bike at the airport and then cycle on an inland route from the airport to Sounio. Athens airport was about 20 km to the south east of the city centre, which was quite convenient for someone who wanted to cycle from the very south-eastern corner of the county back to the capital itself. I would spend Sunday evening at the campsite – promisingly named Camping Bacchus – that I had located at a place called Lavrio on the coast. An early start on Monday morning might even allow me to see the sun rise over the Aegean through the ancient columns of the Temple of Poseidon. Sufficiently motivated by this stunning sight I would then head north along the coast towards Athens where I had booked a hotel room for two nights. My first rest day would be Tuesday allowing me time to acclimatise and explore the ancient ruins of the capital. As you can see, this first bit of the trip I had thought about in detail. Unfortunately it didn’t work out quite as I had planned.
Athens airport arrivals hall was more reminiscent of hectic Stansted than cool, calm & collected Heathrow Terminal 5. People buzzed around in all directions chatting predominantly in a language that was alien to me. To my shame I hadn’t even taken the time whilst on the plane to practice any basic phrases of Greek such as ‘excuse me’, ‘can you help me?’ and ‘where is my bike?’. All three would have come in handy as I stood in the middle of the baggage reclaim area wondering from which hole in the wall or conveyor belt or desk or door would appear my bubble-cushioned travelling companion. My panniers were easy to find as they came along the conveyor belt with all the other assorted luggage from the plane. I placed them on a trolley and made my way towards what looked like the information desk to join a queue of sorts. It was really more of a gathering but I parked my English desire to form an orderly line to one side and hoped that I would make progress towards the desk shortly. After a few moments of shuffling on the spot I noticed a door to my right open wide and a man appeared carrying a large plastic bag; it was of course Reggie. I deserted my fellow gatherers to be reacquainted with my abnormal luggage and on first glance he seemed to be in good shape (the bike that is rather than the man carrying him who, in fairness, could have done with losing a few pounds). I thanked him in English (I hadn’t even learned how to say ‘thank-you’ in Greek!), placed Reggie on the trolley and made my way into the baking midday heat outside the building. I needed to find a quiet, preferably shady spot where I could rebuild him. As I hadn’t really done any dismantling back in the Britain this wouldn’t be a great job; I just needed to reattach the pedals with my recently acquired 15mm spanner, turn and secure the handlebars in position, lift the seat a little and pump up the tyres. I would be heading for Lavrio quicker than you could say Presta valve.”