Summertime is here! Well, as far as the clocks go that is. But it is a big step nearer to the long, hot [are you sure?] days of summer when we can cycle beside the arching bows of the heavily laden crops in the warm rays of the setting sun until late into the evening… (I’m going out of my way to be positive here, but…) I just stopped typing to wander over to the window as I suspected my neighbour had decided to start throwing washing powder out of her upstairs window. She wasn’t. It was hail. And then there’s the social isolation thing. Shall I mention it? (Better not. But I’m inevitably going to do just that, kind of.)
When was the last time you were instructed to stay at home for weeks (probably months) on end and told to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t involve leaving your house (other than to buy food, pick up medicines or get a bit of exercise)? Mmm… It’s a first for me. For many people, work goes on of course, especially if you are a key worker. And many other people can, to a certain extent, continue to work from home. As a supply teacher, however, it’s a bit trickier. I suppose I could invite 30 local children round to my house and encourage them to ignore me for 60 minutes, play on their phones and make paper aeroplanes, but that plan is riddled with more holes than a dry-stone wall. At least I have all this – the website, the videos, the podcast, the books… – to keep me occupied.
Cycling the length of Japan in the summer of 2020 may be off the agenda (although I’m hoping it might return in 2021) but I haven’t lost all hope that at some point before the clocks change again at the end of October, a bit of long-distance cycling could be on the agenda. And let’s face it, we have plenty of time to plan.
Perhaps at this point, some motivational words are required. A few days ago I spoke to Mark Beaumont – long-distance cyclist par excellence – about his career and achievements and the full interview will be the basis for the next episode of The Cycling Europe Podcast (available to download or stream at some point next week). I asked Mark what advice he would give to his 16-year-old self:
Interesting, no? There’s a man who has broken several world records – including the record for cycling around the world in the shortest possible time nonetheless – but who, just like the rest of us, had – perhaps even has – fundamental insecurities about what he was doing. You don’t need to be 16 years old to have insecurities. We all do. It’s part of being human.
I also asked Mark what advice he gives to would-be round-the-world cyclists, whether they are doing it against the clock or not:
“The hardest bit is getting started.“
I can certainly sympathise with that. When I first told a friend I planned to cycle from southern England to southern Italy way back in 2010, she laughed and rapidly moved on to the next topic of conversation. Mark mentions the issues of finding the time to do the ride and financing the ride. Yet these are hurdles that are far easier to work around than actually deciding to set off in the first place. Making such a decision can be quick and it’s certainly cheap – who charges you for being determined? – but it’s much harder to maintain. What helps secure the decision in your mind is a serious amount of detailed planning.
So time to get planning. Self-isolation is going to be here for many, many weeks but by the time the clocks go back, it might be you calling yourself the man (or woman) who cycled ____________. That’s your blank to fill in.