London to Paris – The cast
Day 3 is in the post. That is how it felt to me whilst pedalling away in my altered state. In fact, at times, I concentrated very hard on staying in the moment, not thinking beyond the next bend in the road and if things were hurting I thought about something else entirely. I can’t think what though. As my sister has pointed out I was obviously altered and we did not land in Le Havre at all, but Caen. To me, a complete route Nazi if you will forgive the rather brutal term, to not know where I was, or show much interest in where I was going (beyond the next bend etc.) was completely alien but scarily easy to do. On reflection it is an insight into the world of people (my other half being one) who have no sense of direction and do not engage with maps, distances, or even geography. It made me feel slightly detached, I wonder if it is like that for those in the permanent state of being ever so slightly lost? I’ll have to ask him.
I digress, I wanted to introduce some of Group 6 because they were a good bunch and worth the keystrokes. I shall use false names to protect modesty.
Emily (that’s her real name I forgot to protect her privacy yesterday – sorry) is my sister. She is ten years younger than me and nothing like the rag doll I assumed she would be (with her name – think Bagpuss) when she was born. She is made of steel mainly. I don’t want to go into a load of personal details but she has had some major ops in her twenties (one on her back) and did some Spartan training back in the early spring to lose weight and really improve her fitness. I was glad she came and it wouldn’t have been the same for me without her! x
Me (that’s really Makemeadiva). I am 40 shortly and I didn’t want to approach the milestone feeling washed out and frumpy. I have wanted to a “charity thing” for years but lacked the confidence when I was younger. Now I’ve got two kids, disappearing for three weeks to walk the Great Wall wouldn’t go down too well, so this was a nice short challenge that no-one could object to, too strongly. I wanted to be fitter too. I think I am fitter, but my weight remains static. Our family shape seems to be apple, with quarter-back shoulders, not exactly Lance Armstrong but not to worry.
Greg (he’s not called that but I kept calling him Greg for the duration – sorry). Our mightily impressive group leader. I love an Antipodean positive attitude and Greg kept us all on the money for the trip. He told it like it was and also supported us (especially up hills) when we were losing the will to live. A great combination of the stick and carrot were wielded and dangled with the all important GSOH thrown in. He had ridden the Pyrenees Challenge in 08, covering 930km in 8 days with over 16,000m of climbs! Google it. A pretty impressive figure to follow for three days. The company that organised our ride were Tall Stories – http://www.tallstories.co.uk/ – I can recommend them.
Commando Bob (aka Rambo). Bob was in his 50s. I couldn’t remember his real name at all and by day 3 it would have been rude to ask! Actually I do know it now as I asked someone else. Notable in our group for looking like a skater boy in his 50s and wearing a MASH helmet. Completely risk-averse, the Commander preferred going up hills to freewheeling down them. So he didn’t freewheel and the screeching of brakes was to be heard across Europe; we became accustomed to waiting for him in a huddle at the bottom. A comprehensive knowledge of supermarket own-brand pricing competitiveness did not stand in the way of his running a successful (and very complicated financial business/HQ the Gherkin).
Mick. A vision on a purple bike. He was unfailingly cheerful at all times, on all days and an excellent bon viveur en route. He was awarded the yellow jersey for the fattest fundraising balance on the last night. You could rely on Mick for a good chat in the saddle.
Dawn. An exceptional woman. Marathon runner par excellence. She’s run them here, she’s run them there. She’s run them dressed up as something else (tip – no pressure and a chance to stop and chat!). She has also taken part in the gruelling Comrades ultra-marathon in South Africa and lived to tell the tale. Apparently losing a toe-nail or two is par for the course… Dawn was always up for a chat (except when she got hungry), had the prettiest Italian turquoise bike and was Queen of the hills.
T. The angel with the hydration sachet and multiple facial piercings. She had a point to prove on this trip and the emotional baggage may have made heavier weather of it than she bargained for. The bike she had was probably tipping the scales too and there wasn’t an awful lot of her to get the monster up the inclines. Nonetheless she was often to be seen tearing off in front, equally well she might be found suffering with her knee at the back.
Prom Queen. This delightful girl was only 18!!! She had done a lot of her fundraising by asking guests at her 18th birthday party to donate to the charity rather than give her a present. She had (by her own admission) a crappy, old bike but for some reason (youth and enthusiasm and a strong faith in Jesus I guess) she was able to cut it day in, day out with nary a moan. I was well impressed. The likelihood of my two heiresses ever turning out like this is about 500/1 but a little bit of her altruism would probably see most of us alright.
The Couple. Early twenties, not entirely separate entities, except enforced on the last day. Nice but quite tight with each other and the other youngsters.
The Model. Also part of a couple (and probably not a model). I think she was a student maybe – I can’t remember so dazzled was I by her blondeness and long (half-marathon running) legs. Her OH was in Group 5, they seemed in love, so that was nice. I was bit worried by her telling me he was “passionate” about his job – in marketing… She reliably informed me that this was harder than half-marathon running. That’s good because that might be on my list.
Bit part players. The good thing about this enterprise was that you could change groups; move up if you were with the go-slows and move down if you were struggling. Some people seemed to be going through the groups like a dose of salts, so those that spent only half a day or so with Group 6 didn’t always register. These are the ones I remember. Two ladies in their 50s, one who had the same bike as me – that’s not really worth mentioning but it was notable to me. They were a drama teacher and a dance teacher. They had those lithe, sinewy bodies that cyclists have. One of them had cycled from Lands End to the Scottish place with her son for charity (camping). They moved up to Group 5 – impressive. A lady (also 50s) who had done a lot of cycling in Sweden, laying down the ks with her brother. She said it was pretty flat though. Lastly, but so not leastly, was E, a Big Issue Support Worker who was accompanying one of his clients. I cycled behind him in the morning of Day 3 and I could tell he was having back problems from the shifting and stretching in the saddle. He was then to suffer a further indignity and went back to Group 8 (7 having overtaken 6). He and his Big Issue vendor had bought their bikes from Tescos and got on with it. Good for them!
Those were the significant others on the trip and of course they made it what it was. There was one other person, who shall remain nameless, but I call her the Bad Fairy who was not in our group but was in the walking up hills group. She was known to us and we spent time with her at the hotels. Her unravelling may be listed under the casualities later…