Andrew P. Sykes is a writer, cyclist, speaker and teacher.
He’s also a lover of those quirky, humorous travelogues that meander comically from one minor adventure to the next. So writing about a long-distance cycling trip across Europe from southern England to southern Italy seemed the natural thing for him to do once his small-time odyssey was over. The result was ‘Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie‘.
In 2013, he embarked upon a second trip from Greece to Portugal following the Mediterranean coast; ‘Along The Med on a Bike Called Reggie‘ was published in 2014.
A third trip was completed in 2015 from the southern tip of Spain to the northernmost point of Norway. The book, ‘Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie’, will be published by Summersdale in spring 2017.
Andrew has now returned to his northern roots and lives in the beautiful Calder Valley of West Yorkshire, the area where he was born and brought up. He currently mixes teaching with writing and, of course, dreaming of the next long journey.
The author as a cyclist, in his own words:
“I can never really remember not being a cyclist although it is only in the last few years that I have called myself one. There has to be an element of commitment to using a bike over other means of transport to seem eligible to use the title. I certainly do that now and have done, off and on, for the last thirty years. I have never really been a motorist. I have owned three cars, all during my 30s, and, hand on heart, I don’t miss them. Occasionally there is something that I could do more easily or quicker or in greater comfort if I did own a car again, but nothing that actually merits the expense of having a machine with four wheels sat outside on the road not being used for much of its working life.
Not that I am anti car. I get lifts when needed, for example during the harsh winter weather in January 2010 which made cycling all but impossible. And there will come a day, due to circumstances, when I will no doubt buy a car again. But there is a difference between car ownership and car usage. So many journeys are made which are a shamefully extravagant use of a car and all the resources – space as well as energy – they take up. People forget that there are alternatives, and resort far too readily to fairly lame excuses as to why they cannot leave the keys at home and either walk, jump on public transport or, of course, cycle. Few people could really not survive without the use of a car.
So that’s where I stand as a cyclist. It has become the norm for me to go about my daily life either on foot or by bike, mainly because it has never not been the norm for me to do so for most of my life. So why decide to cycle to southern Italy? Well, you can read the initially postings on the blog way back in August 2008 to discover the exact thought processes that went on, but it all boils down to one simple thing; because I can.”
The author as a teacher:
Andrew P. Sykes studied mathematics at the University of York in the late 80s so how he ended up as a French teacher in a secondary school in the UK is a tale of twists and turns but he first stood in front of a bunch of people and tried to teach them English back in February 1994 when he was taking a TEFL Certificate course at Leeds Metropolitan University.
Six months later he found himself a job at a private language school in Tours, France and stayed there until he realised that there was no money in it. Pity it took him nearly five years! Back in the UK in mid 1999 he started to study for a PGCE in MFL at the University of Reading on a special two-year “conversion” programme for people looking to teach French but who didn’t have the appropriate academic background, just the language skills. His course took him to placements first at Trinity School in Newbury and then, for a longer period to Prospect School in Reading itself.
A vacancy for a French teacher came up at Prospect and, after some persuasion (Reading was and still is an expensive place to live!), he found himself a full-time post in the school. Liz Wood, the then head of department led a vibrant group of people who very much saw how the learning of a language could and should be a skill for everyone at every level.
The management didn’t always agree and by the time he left in 2006, the place of languages within the curriculum was en route to becoming a side-show for the minority. In the September of that year Andrew started work as a subject leader in charge of the languages department at Gillotts School in Henley-on-Thames, a short and picturesque cycle ride from Reading, and more importantly a school where language learning was being increasingly supported & developed.
He stayed at the school until December 2014 when he left to complete the third European cycle from Tarifa to Nordkapp in spring and summer 2015…