Monday, 25 April 2011

Blank Canvas

''Just dash something down when you see a blank canvas staring at you in the face. It says, 'you can't do anything'. Many are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the really passionate painter who is daring - and who has once and for all broken that spell of, 'you cannot'.''
(Vincent Van Gogh)

Trawling through my diary recently, I suddenly sat up with a jolt! For the first time in my working life the pages of my diary were completely bare. There was no work; there were no meetings; no 'to do' lists; no jottings or social outings -nothing - just empty blank spaces. It was as though my life had - and as suddenly as I had turned the page from one month to the next - just stopped! And the contrast was stark. It had suddenly changed from my usual chaotic, manic and - to anyone else - undecipherable scribbled entries, to - absolutely nothing. Gazing into this blank nothingness, made me feel a little weird and strangely disconnected from my surroundings and at first I wasn't comfortable with this new emotion. I stared into the void of those unmarked pages; each crisp, white, pristine, white-as-snow sheet glaring back at me. It was like peering into a wintery white-out, and I shivered with doubt at the thought of what was about to happen to me over the coming year. The reality of my imminent journey jumped out at me in a Magwich-induced fright and there was no looking over my shoulder now. I had reached the point of no return; it had its grip on me and there was no going back. My life was about to dramatically change and I felt a little unhinged at the commitment I had made.

But of course, those diary pages were not blank at all. Very soon, those same empty pages will, as yet unseen, be crammed from margin to edge with days of excitement and drama and transform those flat, horizontal, blue, spacer lines into a three dimensional vision of colours, landscapes, images and senses that would soon fill every minute of my days. Those pages will soon be blanketed in stories and adventures of intoxicating tales to come, already fuelling my over fertile mind, as I mentally traced my proposed route and filled my head with imaginings of future delights and experiences of each country I would be travelling through and especially, the characters and people I will meet along the way. With my imagination in overdrive and brimming with excitement, I turned my attention, once again to more practical matters.

In preparation for the trip, my bike had been given a full service. So, with his shiny new components as well as his deep, metallic blue colour and with the added blaze of a dazzling, yellow sunflower decorating my handlebar bag, I decided to give him a new name. This burst of blue and yellow reminded me of the vibrant, intense hues used by one of my favourite artists, and so I re-named him - Vincent - after the Dutch expressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh. An appropriate name considering the theme of my trip and one which suits him perfectly!

Another new feature is that I have also bought myself a mini notebook computer. (not bad for someone who vowed not to take any technology with me! ) and I am looking forward to being able to Skype some of my friends and family (for free!) in the coming months while I am abroad. (I am desperately trying to persuade those of my friends who haven't got Skype to buy (a cheap) camera and speakers, so I can contact them as well!)

So, the check list is finally complete; only the last minute items to catch up on just before I go. I have spent the last few days, packing and repacking and then packing again - in fact I've lost count of the number of times I have packed and upacked - just to get everything exactly balanced and how I want it. I have put everything that I (hopefully) won't need at the bottom of one pannier and the more commonly used items nearer the top for easier access. Then I had to evenly distribute the weight in each pannier to get an even balance, which makes for a more stable ride. I then had to decide which items to pack in the top pannier - nothing too heavy,so that it didn't top load the bike. But for those of you who are interested, the weight is as such: Each side pannier = 30lbs each, one tent = 15lbs, one sailing roll top pannier across the back = 25lbs, handlebar bag =10lbs making the total weight = 110lbs. (sorry, I still use lbs - blame it on my age!)

But it's a bit heavier than when I was initially testing the bike. but even though the bike is heavier, with an evenly balanced load, it doesn't feel that much different. Some have wondered why I am not using front wheel panniers. Well, there are three reasons; firstly, I am not cooking when I camp, so I don't need the extra space; secondly, I didn't want seven pieces of separate luggage to load and unload from my bike, especially when getting on trains or on a bus; and thirdly, I am a firm believer that the more baggage you have the more you want to fill them!. And hopefully as I progress on my journey, I can discard such things as maps or items that I no longer need, so it should get lighter - but only slightly!

So, its up to London this Sunday - May 1st - where between 9.30am and 11am, in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly, a group of my friends and family, will, over a glass or two of the sparkly stuff, (only a sip in my case) send me on my way into the wildly exciting unknown.
I intend to keep this blog going during my travels, so I hope you will follow my adventures each month.

And so, as I make the last entry, I've closed my half filled diary and with mounting excitement, I am about to go upstairs and pack for the final time.


My special thanks go to Bull-it Recruitment - part sponsors of my round the world trip.

Also, huge love and thanks to all my friends and family who have put me up - and put up with me! - and thanks to everyone for their encouragement, support, advice and love, without which, I could never have got this trip off the ground.

''Listen ...... there's a hell of a good universe next door;
let's go! ''

(E.E.Cummings: from Anne Mustoe's; A Bike Ride)

(copyright: Deborah Anne Brady)