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Its now just a week to go before we each leave home for six months. Despite having read lots of accounts I have almost no idea of what to expect.

For so long this has seemed like an abstract idea. For several years in fact that’s all it was: a vague notion more than a plan. For me, it took on a little more definition about 15 months ago when sitting in a tent pitched on ice in Greenland, waiting out a storm and telling stories. Making plans for the future, it’s easier telling tall stories that haven’t happened yet. What do you plan to do for your next adventure? So I voiced this idea but it came out as a definite intention, even with dates attached. Talk about painting yourself into a corner! But that was surely a good thing; sometimes you need help to take the first step.

It began to take more shape when I asked Ian and Tom whether they might be interested in making a team (I had not dared hope they would sign up for the whole thing), and Ian jumped at it and Tom said he would try to annualise his work time so get a month (or maybe two) free to come. I don’t think even Tom thought at that time that he would in fact retire from work in order to join us from top to bottom.

Maybe this would be a good point to introduce the team. In the photo above, taken during an off-road training weekend in Spain a couple of months ago I am on the left, then L to R are Tom, Ian and Mark.

Even when I bought the bike last December, and so started to take definite steps to turn fantasy into reality, the the fact of the trip actually happening did not seem real. I  get the feeling that the others have felt the same – certainly from our almost continual (and mostly inane) chat on WhatsApp; it was about a week ago that Tom’s brain threatened to explode, although to be fair most people who know Tom thought it had exploded long ago. Ian, while contemplating how enjoyable life was with a salmon lunch and a glass of Sauv Blanc suddenty admitted to “am I totally f***ing mad?” feelings, which if brutally honest are shared by me and Tom (yes Ian, you are).

So: plenty of planning; some of the suggested routes are only adding to the nerves, but also ramping up the anticipation and excitement levels to overdrive. And a dose of near panic too. What is in store for us? SIX MONTHS away! Will we cope? What will I need? What have I forgotten? So a bit of self discipline is in order. We deal with it in different ways. Ian is just getting organised, and sending images of Theresa May in an Orange parade. I have given up thinking. Trying to be in touch with friends (mostly failing). And Tom escapes into a higher plane. Tom is the literary one; it is notable however that his regular poetry selections have become rather morbid of late.  He chose the one below as an entry in this blog, which may be a suitable point to finish for now.

Thanks to those who have reacted to the blog – there will be more to tell I’m sure in a week or so! If you like it, pass it on.

Seventy, by David Hare.

Seventy

“Three score and ten is it, says Jahweh
Three score and ten is all you’re allowed
After three score and ten you’re finished
Whoever you are, humble or proud

Don’t waste your breath asking for longer
Man was allotted seventy from when he began
Complain all you like, forget it, it’s official
Take it from Jahweh – seventy’s man’s natural span

Though he listens both to saints and to sinners
On this particular point, see, Jahweh is firm
“I created the world with strict regulations
And this is one I’m enforcing long-term”

Men may succumb to malfunctioning prostates
For a woman the killer inside is the breast
But for both genders obsolescence is programmed
No wonder mankind is depressed

You’re not there when the planet’s created
And you’re not there when the planet expires
You’re live like the average mosquito
Because that’s all that Jahweh requires

Jahweh picks you up and he look at you
Having looked, he soon puts you down
Don’t imagine you’re of any significance
For him, you’re a shrug, a fancy, a frown

His joke is to make everyone different
So each one feels they have some special aim
But it’s only Jahweh making his special mischief
Because each of us ends up the same

He’s no interest in your particular pleadings
For your feeling he gives not a whit
If you suggest you deserve something better
He wipes you out and that’s it

You can choose to be burnt or be buried
Or pulled through the streets in elaborate display
Don’t fool yourself: it’s simply a means of postponing
An unending future of rot and decay

It’s hard to accept of my Nicole
Whom I loved more than any woman I knew
The idea that she too is mortal
Seems too absurd to be possibly true

Look in her eyes and see her laughter
Look in her face and see her delight
Then contemplate the indefensible system
That condemns her to go out like a light

There’s no way of accepting the arrangements
They seem devised for maximum pain
We give our whole lives to another
Then we never see them again

Face it: we’re victims of a cruel sense of humour
The only thing God truly loves is a joke
The rest of the stuff is kerfuffle
Whether you’ve lived as a bird or a bloke

Come, Nicole, come close and embrace me
Let me swim in the pool of your gaze
Forget Jahweh. Fuck him! Tell him from both of us
Seventy’s nothing these days!”