Some names are easily forgettable. David Evans, Margaret Butcher, Terry Wilson… (I just made those up. Apologies if you are offended because you have one of those names.) My own name isn’t that exciting; Andrew Sykes. That’s why I stuck the ‘P’ in there for the purpose of the identifying me as a writer; Andrew P. Sykes has a little more gravitas, no? I digress… Some names, however, are a little more memorable. Flash Gordon. Scarlett O’Hara. Sherlock Holmes. Then again, perhaps those names were just as boring as the rest before their creators got hold of them. We will never know.
In the past ten years of being ‘Cycling Europe’, I have been contacted by many, many hundreds of people. Most have fairly standard names. Once in a while, however, a name will stand out. Lester Knibb. Billy Romp. Otto Sentieri. (Although that third one is not actually someone’s name; it was just mistaken for someone’s name and it has stuck.)
When the name cropped up in an email recently, it rang bells. Paul Cheese. There’s a memorable name. The email in question was not from Paul but from a chap called Richard Weston. Richard’s name is, like mine, not too memorable although you may remember him as, back in 2017, he invited me to Brussels to speak at a EuroVelo event that he was organising. Richard is one of the world’s few academics who specialises in cycle tourism and he heads the Institute of Transport & Tourism at the University of Central Lancashire. ‘Would you like to attend a similar event in Scotland in November?‘ he asked. It turns out the event is about the development of the EuroVelo 1 ‘Atlantic Route’ as a long-distance cycle route. Having cycled significant chunks of the route back in 2015 when I pedalled from Tarifa to Nordkapp, he thought I might be an appropriate person to speak to the delegates. So, in the first week of November, I’m off to Balloch – on the shores of Loch Lomond – to do just that. Paul Cheese has also been invited to speak. Where had I heard that name before?
I searched CyclingEurope.org. No results. It appeared that I had never mentioned Paul Cheese on this site before. Curious. I left in there and resolved to do a little more digging before I headed north to Scotland. Fast forward to last Sunday evening. I’m sitting working at the computer, half listening to Jim Al-Khalili select his ‘Pick of the Week’ on Radio 4 and the following ‘highlight’ from Jim wafts through the air:
Paul Cheese! Cycle touring… audio recording… That rang more bells. I started searching again but there was no email in my inbox from Paul Cheese, just a message response from me via Twitter to Paul’s Twitter account saying “Hi! Yes, would be nice if you could write an article about your trip. It will perhaps be a bit of publicity for your music 🙂“. It was dated December 2013 but there was no message prior to that one. Was I responding to one of Paul’s tweets? I scrolled back to 2013… but the oldest tweet on his timeline was from November 2016.
Clearly we had exchanged – probably now deleted – messages nearly six years ago but, thanks to Paul’s memorable name, it had stuck in my mind. Cue a little more digging online and I find Paul’s website where he explains all:
Hi, I’m Paul Cheese
On May 26th this year, I set out to discover what the UK sounds like.
I cycled almost 5000 miles – to every region of the UK to capture the sounds of people and places. In addition, I asked people to send me sounds from their lives.
The cycle took me a little longer than I had planned, but I met so many people with so many great suggestions for locations to record that more than a few detours were made:)
What an experience. It’s a cliché, but it was such a pleasure to meet so many brilliant and different people and places along the way. Thank you.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve listened to 1000s and 1000s of sounds that I recorded and orchestrated them into a piece of music – the sounds of the people, the friendliness, the sound of the elements interacting with the architecture and nature, the activities or everyday life – the sounds of people’s workplaces and tools, hobbies, art and the different rhythms of different materials, the echoes bouncing off concrete, or through tunnels – all combined to create a unique reflection of The Sound of the UK, 2019.TheBigRecord.com
And here is Paul’s piece of music in its entirety:
That’s rather beautiful, no? It’s always nice to have a project to combine with the cycle touring. For me it’s the writing and the photography. For Paul, it’s recording the sounds that he hears. I look forward to meeting Paul in Scotland in November. I might even do a bit of sound recording myself and interview him for the podcast…
Photo credit: Paul Cheese / TheBigRecord.com