Saturday, 24 June 2006

Parliament Square

24 July 06
I got out of London successfully with friends gathered at Parliament Square and a hug & handshake from brian haw to sent me off. No warmer parting words from Bob Craig than 'Hackney is THAT way as I apparently set off in the wrong direction. After a grueling trip to Hackney, a quick pause at the town hall to say my goodbyes to Rebecca & Gita and then i was off flag flailing in the wind behind me and stuck in traffic also getting out of London. It is not a pleasant journey getting out of
London to the North. A lot of traffic and nasty roads. and I was on all of them. Epping Forest was an exception as it was a nice cycle ride. I was making my way fine up and out of London and coping my best with A & B roads when, out of Chelmsford I hit a really busy dual highway which is my only way forward. Even hardened by London traffic, this was a challenge for me; and to top it off, I suddenly hear three small bangs from under my saddle. Any well seasoned cyclist would know that that is the sound of spokes breaking, but it took me a while to figure it out. This is also
where i discovered the problem with a flag pole sticking out of your bike when trying to look at your tyres. so, here I was on this freakin' busy road ( on the SIDE of the freakin' busy road, mom & dad), three busted spokes and a suddenly sorry looking flag pole & peace flag. Oh yea, and it must have been topping 40 degrees in the shade.I slowly make my way to my exit and begin the walk to somewhere. Asking along the way for a bike shop and getting negatives as it was a Sunday so no
joy. About a mile after my breakdown, I met a man with a minivan who says that my best chance is to head back to chelmford to catch a train if necessary plus there were many bike shops there that would be open the next day.
I find a b&b and settle in for the evening. I was about 30 k's away from my intended stayover, though i really didnt want to stay in the b&b, but I figured it would be best so i can focus on getting the bike fixed. After a much needed shower, i went down to the pub for a beer where i began to tell my woeful tale to Richard, a local who frequents this very pub. He and I sat and conversed for well over three hours and had many great conversations especially when I told him why I was doing the
bike ride. At first I was a bit hesitant about speaking about it, but then when he reacted positively to my 'ping' for peace and berated me for not going to the demo on Saturday, i knew that we would become fast friends. which we did.
He spoke of his recent 'conversion' to the anti-war movement after serving in the forces years ago. We spoke of his current struggle with his conscious about the ongoing Conflict in the Middle East. We had a wide ranging conversation from war to the UK/US relationship to religion and all of their interconnections.He said that our conversation is a conversation that doesnt take place that often in
Chelmsford, so he was very happy to be having it with me. There isn't much of a anti-war backlash in town, and he has few if any people to speak about his concerns to. I gave him some of my leaflets for the 23rd Sept demo and he promised to hand them out to his friends to see if he can get any of them to come up to Manchester.
Coming out of london and surrounded by the people with whom i associate, I can't imagine what he was going through as far as being alone in his feelings about the current state of affairs. He was just so happy to have this conversation. And I too was pleased to meet someone like him in this town. In my biased point of view, I never would have thought that I would be having this intense and deep conversation rather I thought that if I did have one it would just be skimming the surface and not
delving too deep to have a 'real' conversation about the war and its fallout.
The next morning, as the gods were looking favourably upon me, I got the bike into the shop by 9.30am and had it fixed by 2pm. I unloaded alot of my 'unnecessary' luggage upon richard who gave me a bivvie bag in exchange for my sleeping bag & tent which was too big now for my ride. I must have gotten rid of a 1/3 of my things in order to lighten my load. So, for many reasons, meeting richard was good for the soul & the pocketbook as I would have had to either give these things up or mail them home, neither a good option. But, as i am sure that he & i will cross paths
again many times, I know my things are in safe hands. As I was close to Harwich, about 40 miles, and I had to make my ferry because of my reservation, I took the safe option of training to the port. I admit that i was also feeling a bit gun-shy about getting back on my bike after the problems with the spokes. So i needed to quickly get over that. The ferry ride began to get me excited again about getting back on the bike. It was a beautiful trip. I arrived at 1am at the port in NL. Em, now What????? I looked for signs to Prague, but found none so I settled on going East. I travelled about 30 minutes in the dark & fog, but decided it would be better to wait for light. So i found a comfortable spot on the bike path and settled in for the night. The bivvie bag was great - a quick and easy alternative to a tent. Within 20 minutes, i was asleep.

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