Thursday, 2 September 2010


Happy September

I want to mention serendipity. As with the three princes in Horace Walpole's 'The Three Princes of Serendip', I, too, have had my fair share recently, of making fortunate discoveries by accident. Since deciding to do this trip, my emotions had flipped between sheer joy and excitement, to moments of sheer terror (usually in the small hours just before dawn). When that happens, or if I come across difficult times, I fall back on a comforting thought - something will always turn up!
One example of this serendipity was when I recently met a fellow cyclist called Astrid.

It all started with my friend's mother! Knowing about my proposed trip, she told my friend about a woman cyclist from Bristol (she couldn't remember her name) who had just given an interview about her recent round the world cycling adventure for local radio. My friend naturally told me.

'Fantastic!', I said and completely ignored it.

Some weeks later, I went to see a talk by Alistair Humphreys, who some years ago spent four years cycling round the world on his own adventure. Afterwards, I put a few questions to him and he happened to mention Astrid, a Bristol woman who had just come back from a world trip! It was quite clear this was the same woman that my friend's mother had spoken of some weeks back. So I got in touch with Astrid and we met for lunch one Sunday a couple of weeks ago.

Meeting Astrid was one of those fortunate events. Not only was she a woman of similar age to me but because she had been on such a recent cycling trip, her information was very up to date. I have read a good number of books of travel cyclists and been to see a few talks by inspiring speakers who have done the same thing, but the problem was that their journeys took place many years ago and I really wanted more up to date information. So it was very fortunate indeed to have met up with Astrid. In fact, if she is available, she has told me she would like to cycle with me for a while when I leave from the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Serendipity! Something always turns up.

This was again evident a few weeks later at a college in Oxford, where I teach photography. One of the reasons I chose to travel by bicycle was to travel slowly, soak up the atmosphere of places and to meet local communities. In Oxford, one of my fellow tutors told me about an organisation called Servas. This volunteer run organisation promotes understanding, tolerance and peace between countries and sets up registered hosts (local people who are willing to put travellers up for a couple of nights in their homes to help them understand the true nature of the country by staying in the community). I must admit I had never heard of them before, so I have registered with them and will wait to see what happens. I must attend an informal interview with a local representative and have passport photos ready and get character reference letters . So now, let me see, who will I contact for those....?!

So, it's all been very good news but I am sitll worried about one or two countries. No, not about the 'crickets on a stick' as mentioned in my last blog, or having to cycle through one or two of the more 'slighty dodgy' landscapes. No, the country I am most worried about is Italy! I love art and I keep thinking to myself, 'am I ever going to get out of Florence'! There will be so many artistic delights round every corner that I won't know where to start. I shall be excitedly scampering around from one dazzling, awe inspiring vision to the next, like a frenzied hen! I can only imagine future correspondence with loved ones going something like this......

'Debbie, it's been three years now since you set off - where are you now, India, China, Malaysia?'

'Nope, still in Florence'

Well of course, that's just Florence. Then there is Rome, Greece, Turkey and visiting the ancient city of Pergamon and of Alexander's personal court painter, Apelles, and his court sculptor, Lysippos, who in that ancient Greek, Hellenistic age, influenced later stages of western art.. and then there is Demosthenes, another influential ancient Greek sculptor, who brought a new dimension of expressive power to Greek portraiture... and then there is......... well, you will just have to wait to read the book!

catch up with you next month
bye for now