Adventure

Transport Issues: Near, Far And Very Far Indeed

An interesting week both on and off the bike. In recent weeks I’ve mentioned the purchase of a new bike in order to return to the habit of cycling to work. Well, this week, the bike was delivered and the habit re-started… Alas the delivery of the bike – a Ribble Hybrid AL Trail Disc Enthusiast 2.0 – was timed for Monday morning so I resorted to taking the car to school that day, but when I returned home, this was waiting for me:

The new bike, boxed and unboxed…

Remarkably simple to assembly, by Tuesday morning I was happily cycling the few miles to and from work once again and long may that continue.

Spin forward three days to Friday. My job allows me a bit of flexibility in that it allows me to take days off from time to time to do the other stuff in life that interest me. One of those days was last Friday when I had arranged to meet and interview the author Tim Moore. More of Tim in a few moments but, having become completely Zoomed out when it comes to recording interviews for the podcast, I’m now trying – whenever possible – to meet people face-to-face. A couple of weeks ago I was in York to interview Candy Whittome and later this morning I’m off to Leeds to chat to prospective round-the-world cyclist Nathan Molyneux. Heading down to London to meet Tim Moore might require more of an effort but it was well worth it and it did give me the opportunity of spending a day in the capital doing one or two other things.

First up was a wander around the travel bookshop Stanfords. It’s a shadow of its former self in its relatively new home but still offers an unrivalled selection of guidebooks and maps when it comes to physical shops and is worth the effort of finding the front door which is now (almost) hidden within a modern shopping development close to Covent Garden. I toyed with the idea of buying many, many maps for the trip around the Baltic this summer but in the end bought just the one, which, err… wasn’t even for any bits of the proposed route which border the Baltic Sea. I may adopt a buy-when-I-arrive strategy to maps for this trip. No trip to Stanfords goes without a slight tidying of the books on one of their shelves…

I had no idea what the subject of the current exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society was, but next I headed west to South Kensington to find out. It was… Sir Ernest Shackleton – who died 100 years ago this year – and a display of some of the remarkable photographs (and some short grainy films) taken predominantly on his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition that started in 1914 and finally concluded in 1917. It was a disaster of epic proportions which saw his ship – the Endurance – crushed under the pressure of the pack ice and sink leaving the 28 men to make their own way back to safety. (You can watch Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton in the two-part 2002 Channel 4 series Shackleton on All 4. It’s worth a few hours of your time. If you think you’ve got problems…)

Which brings us nicely to Tim Moore. He had his own ‘interesting’ experiences in the cold and ice of northern Finland back in 2015 when he cycled, on an East German shopping bicycle, along the Iron Curtain Trail, also known as EuroVelo 13 of course. Bearing in mind Tim’s penchant for adopting curious forms of transport when he embarks on his trips around the world – that have ranged from a Model T Ford, to a donkey to, of course, a couple of period bicycles for his cycling trips along the routes of the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta de España – I suggested that me meet at the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. I can’t remember if I’ve ever been there before or not but it’s packed tight with public transport related artefacts (which tend to be a bit bigger than your average museum artefacts), including a bicycle, which wasn’t really for public use, but gave a nod in the direction of the importance of the bike when it comes to mass transport:

“Evans the bicycle William Wagstaff and his trusty companion Evans were inseparable for 76 years. They went courting together, rode to work through the Blitz and took memorable touring holidays in Cornwall and the Isle of Man. On 14 May 1929, the 20-year-old apprentice telephone engineer from Clapham walked into FW Evans’ cycle works in Kennington Road He exchanged his £13 life savings for a shiny black racer. Wagstaff was to ride that bike for more than 80,000km (50,000 miles). Even after moving to Croydon, he still cycled 38km (24 miles) each day to his work in Bermondsey Bicycle (2004/18576), photograph (2005/18810).”

London Transport Museum

Underground train carriages actually have pretty good acoustics and Tim and I chose the red one you can see here…

…as our podcast studio. It dates from the late 1930s but was very reminiscent of the one that I remember using back in the 1990s as I made my way to work along the Northern Line from Balham to the City. Here’s Tim lounging, Jacob Rees-Mogg style, on the cushioned seats:

He was excellent company for the hour of so that we chatted but you’ll have to wait until episode 046 of The Cycling Europe Podcast to hear the entirety of the interview. However, here’s a short teaser in which he talks about the pivotal role of his grandfather when it came to his future career as a travel writer:

The podcast featuring Tim should be out towards the end of March or early April. Here are my pre-interview notes that may give you a sense of the other things that were brought into the conversation (although not everything and we did head off on various tangents, as is usually the case…).

It was now late afternoon. My train back to Halifax wasn’t due to leave for a couple more hours and I didn’t want to rush back to Kings Cross simply to be fleeced by the brewers of London by investing in their pricey beers (although later, I did…) so I decided to walk the mile or so north from Covent Garden to the station. En route I passed a demonstration but it wan’t just any demonstration, as you can see here:

There was a minute of silence at 6pm in honour of the killed cyclists – one of them only last week – which was a remarkable moment to witness at one of London’s busiest junctions. Even the car, taxi and van drivers – who were being held up by the protest – seemed not to mind as the peeps of their horns were few and far between. It was a touching way to bring the day to a close…

Visit the dedicated Baltic Sea Cycle Route / EuroVelo 10 page of CyingEurope.org to discover more about the planned cycle around Europe’s other big sea.

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