When I bought my panniers I didn’t envisage packing my best dress, a pair of high heeled boots, make up and of course… glitter. But what better way to get to one of your best friend’s weddings?
So it was on a questionable weather day that I set off from Bristol and through the Wiltshire countryside – open, majestic, sweeping, other worldly. It is no wonder that the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge and Avebury felt compelled to celebrate the chalk downland landscape.
Mustard yellow fields contrasted against a steel grey sky brought on a short rain storm but with my cocoon of rustling waterproofs the weather felt like just another paint pallet on an already impressive vista of English countryside. I was rewarded with the luxury that can’t be rivalled..a huge wallowing bath, multiple helpings of fish pie and a bed that welcomed heavy limbs.
The next day the wide plains filtered down to small moss covered roads with high hedges, sunlit bluebell woods, Cotswold stone cottages, barns being used as barns. And then on to Reading. San Francisco must feel very short changed being twinned with such an amalgam mess of concrete.
82 miles in total on Saturday…and the last couple of hours were tough. And the questions whirr in my head “Can I do this? Why am I doing this? Blimey… I haven’t even got any camping kit on board”….
Questions answered when I was walking back over Putney Bridge after my friends wedding. I noticed a man up ahead, staring fixedly into space but there was something odd. He was on the wrong side of the bridge standing on a ledge. “I can’t carry on, I’m going to jump”. Words you never want to hear. I took his hand and we started talking..football (like I know) his daughters. Another guy came to his other side until the police and an ambulance turned up and he was lifted back over the wall…. drunk, confused, desperate but safe. Who knows if it was a cry for help or a full intention… it doesn’t matter. To witness such a level of sadness in life, desperation to end it puts any question I have into a sharp focus of how incredibly lucky I am.