Discarded Items #2

Thursday 17 August 2017: La Roche-sur-Yon

Unnecessary items amounting to some considerable weight have been identified and discarded today, and are hopefully finding their way to a relevant charity centre, courtesy of the receptionist at our hotel:

– rain-shoe covers
– watch
– jacket
– t-shirt
– trousers
– long-sleeved top
– diary
– ‘tray’ of magnesium tablets
– shades-case
– rechargeable batteries
– WD40
– recorder cleaner
– skin-repair cream
– running top
– running shorts
– wristbands
– padlock
– tape measure
– shirt
– indigestion tablets
– bite spray

Since the previous item-discarding celebration, the following two items have also been deemed burdens surplus to requirements and have fallen by the wayside:

– measuring spoons
– egg box

The streamlining continues: we’ll soon have it down to one slightly soiled sock and a used zip-tie.

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Window Screens

Wednesday 16 August 2017: Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret) to La Roche-sur-Yon [Part 3]

11:30am. Sitting outside a typical E.Leclerc, after a light-and-easy 10k from our beautiful overnight spot beside the Lake/River Le Riot du Plessis. We were both awake and up around 7am, having fallen to sleep accompanied by the haunting-yet-soothing hoots of an owl or three.

No real urgency today. We’ve just got a hotel-check-in at 2pm for our rest-day. On some level, it’s reassuring to know we’ve got everything there waiting, without having to cycle from here to here, dependent on various weather conditions or shopping opportunities for what we eat, or when we eat, or even how. A bed is there, also not susceptible to the caprice of the weather.

And that’s nice. It is. The reliable. The sense it’s always there, almost exactly as you left it – and maybe exactly as you wish. It’s what you can have in day-to-day life, with convenience on your doorstep, if you’re willing to pay the price – of your labour; of your life; of most of your time on this Earth; to consume the fruits of your labour at prices higher than those at which you were paid; to keep a cycle going for those unknowns elsewhere, who we see on our screens, wishing that that was us. And life ticks by as we aspire to live someone else’s dream; a dream at the expense of our own. And the Earth spins on, vastly unknown, viewed through windows presented by others.

Inevitably, we tire, our vigour fades, and our market value declines. We’re put out to pasture – to do as we might, though a little too broken to do what we once could have done. So through those same windows we continue to follow the lives – those lives that we chose not to live.

And that’s nice, if vicarious is all that you need, and virtual is real enough. But as the heart breathes and life warmly flows, I want more than simulacra of being.

As one day turns to next, we all head the same way and leave some light footprints behind, so it doesn’t matter so much – your way or mine – as long as it’s the one that you choose.

The Real Scary Creatures that Exist in this World [2]

Wednesday 16 August 2017: Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret) to La Roche-sur-Yon [Part 2]

“This is how it feels
That purity of act
To kill someone
Really feel that purity of life.”

There it was – out there. The unspoken said. It could never be put back – be unspoken.

She had said it. Had I thought it?

As with all these things, it amounted to the same thing. If anything was done to action this thought, that’s all that would really matter – would really have an effect.

But nothing is without seed. Nothing is inherently a seed. We are all seed and fruit. Why think or spread those that may foul? For just one to take root, to germinate, damage will be done.

And for all the good that you do, the positivity you’ve shared
Somewhere around and abound
And on rebound
Will be the germ of an evil you once cared to spread

The Real Scary Creatures that Exist in this World [1]

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Wednesday 16 August 2017: Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret) to La Roche-sur-Yon [Part 1]

4:30am. Fortunately, for many, for most, the worst monsters, the nastiest of villains, the most depraved of beasts, only exist in our minds. Fictions we dream up as the light dims and our imaginations fill the gaps with monsters drawn of senses trying to prevent us from falling into a false sense of security before

KABOOM!

Taken while our defences were down.

It’s a throwback to when we lived in caves and real monsters did dwell in the shadows and you would pay with the means to survive if you weren’t, even in slumber, somehow poised and ready, weapon to hand, should a sabre-toothed hedgehog swoop down at you in the night.

Now, as habitats have been taken and claimed, walls have been built with bricks and cement, and we have the power to make light to allow all our senses to see, and much of the natural world has been feared to the Outer Zones, there is nothing in the darkness except a fruit falling from a tree, an ajar window in a breeze, or a television set to low announcing itself.

But our minds have the power to conjure them at will and, as a kind of defence-mechanism, finds security in doing so, and maybe a little enjoyment, too, which is why horrors can leap onto the page of any person with a pen in their hand. How much these monsters take on a life for others depends on the ability of the writer to create a context, a dark corner, in which this creature might feasibly thrive. When this is done well, these things are packaged and sold to thrill our sense for the scary by allowing our imaginations some credence.

However, sometimes, or often, these creatures are not clearly labelled as coming from the mind. They come in our news feeds or are passed from mouth to mouth. Their passing on may not come of ill-will or a desire to misinform, but from a habit to have faith in the source that told the tale. But they’re mostly monsters made on rumour, once given shape in someone else’s darkest hour, then given life upon re-telling as a shared experience. They are built on some other’s myth-making machines, and really have no place in the World of You, except for the fact that we habitually set places for them and all the other characters we share in the stories that we tell one another to build our pictures of the world.

Most always this is harmless – just embroidery to colour life; but we should all be aware the monsters, especially the people we hold dear. So we warn them and we fear them, just so they may never come to harm, from the mythical beasts given life in darkened minds. When really all there is, when you brace and turn on the light, is a hedgehog rearing its kids away from the glare of public gaze; and not a biblical beast summoned forth to slay humankind.

But when these fears take shape, given life and truth in people’s minds, without them shining their own light in the corner to discover the sweetest truth, we risk modifying our behaviour according to myth, allowing another’s darkness to encroach on ours, and limiting a little more light. Until all we see is darkness, of origins now unknown.

Shine the light for yourself and you’ll usually reveal a sweetest truth, and not some other’s monsters. You may not, but at least it would prevent so many of us living in other people’s fears. And with more light being shone, more lightness would prevail: relegating the real scary creatures that exist in this world to the space beneath the line or on the forum pages.

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Your Own Voices

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Tuesday 15 August 2017: La Paulière Field to Le Riot du Plessis (Le Plessis Bergeret)

1125. Outside a supermarket on the edge of La Verrie. Have already decamped, rode to a boulangerie, breakfasted, aired, stretched in a park – and are ready to make our (hopefully) chilled way to a forest some ten kilometres shy of the city in which our rest-day hotel dwells.

Despite the overnight light rain and the upon-waking-up shower accompanied by a symphony of ominous clouds which got us up and decamped in 50 minutes yesterday, it was our first day in prolonged proper heat since we left Vienna and began our English odyssey – and I guess I was a little rusty at hydrating properly. I’ve got one of those thirsts today that can never quite be quenched, like when you’ve had one-too-many the previous evening. So, with midday and our serious riding of the day on the horizon, the clouds all broken up and wispy, 25º on the thermometer, the Sun beaming on me, and a sheen of sweat cooling the torso, I’ll have to keep an eye on that today.

1535. La Ferrier: not our destination, but pretty damn close and, personally speaking, also about the limit my body’d like to  go today – particularly my bum.

It’s been, I forget now, thirteen consecutive days on the saddle – and that hotel and that rest-day are looking pretty damn attractive right now.

Don’t get me wrong: loving the ride today, and much prefer camping to the alternatives, but sometimes your body, or something else, has got different priorities and, after only 190 minutes riding and about 47km covered, my body and bum are telling me: “Rest!”

Tonight is another night under canvas. Hope we are able to find a place in that forest we marked as our target for today. Hard to tell exactly what ‘forest’, ‘landuse’ or ‘meadow’ mean on maps.me, but we’ll see, and at some point needs just tell you: “Stop being fussy – and stop! Here’s perfect.”

So we will end up somewhere …

… and it will be just right 😀

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1710. A lake. Human-made or made for human? Don’t care: chilling. On our way to where we are going, passed it. “Shall we stop there and chill out by the water?” Yes. 40-ish minutes of horizontal immobility and eye-shuttage later, and I’m doodling.

We’ve been chilling.

Because all of what we’re doing is so pleasurable and so fulfilling, it may be seen as one long holiday; it isn’t; it’s work; and we also sometimes forget that, lost in our reveries or our silly conversations as move from here to here.

Enforced getting up and out there so early this morning has allowed us this time to just stop; we’ve done the bulk of our riding for the day (hopefully), and just have to get from here to tent-pitch time. That’s a time to chill, too, but it’s more a drifting towards total switch-off and sleep than just doing nothing, which is a significant, and only just now appreciated, difference.

Would be nice to camp here and though, with our experience of France’s nonchalance, tolerance and indulgence so far, I guess it’d be possible, we may feel just a little bit too exposed to foot-traffic at random times to be able to switch off completely for the big sleep … and, er, satisfy certain more solid bodily functions in the morning, though it’d be great to just wake up and be in our breakfast spot already, even though we’ve barely got enough food to see us through to sleep this evening. We only carry just enough to see us through until the next time we are able to restock on fuel and it must be holiday fortnight or whatever in this region at the moment, as most towns are like ghost ones: the roads are pleasantly devoid of serious traffic and an open shop or boulangerie or café is a bonus rather than a taken-for-granted.

It’s nice, again, to see that the French still respect the weekend, still respect general time off rather than selling it all out to the needs of that ‘all important economy’ thing that everyone talks about with such significance, but very few, if any, could actually define. And it doesn’t seem to be doing France any harm – at all! The standard of living is clearly high – and clearly higher than those countries with which I’m familiar that are slave to this economy thing. The quality of life is, well, incomparably higher again; from what I’ve seen, anyway. And they’re trying much more effectively to not let economic progress or development savage too much of their natural surroundings. That’s not to say some isn’t savaged, but not on the don’t-give-a-shit-scale as England or Poland.

And, returning to a theme which I’m feeling and noticing – France is just France: how it is. England always seems to be trying to be something, trying to define itself – why can’t it just be? It’d be happier if it did, and feel so much better, too, than when it’s trying to put on airs and graces, and be like something it’s seen elsewhere. It’s there elsewhere because it evolved elsewhere. You don’t become chic and cool by pretending to be someone else, you do it by throwing away your complexes; by being yourself, but not at the expense of others, of course.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of people being themselves, and I love them for that, but when I see areas, villages, or towns clearly trying to dress themselves up in a way French towns, villages or areas instinctively do, I now know why it always comes across as feeling contrived and somewhat oppressive within my home shores – because it was trying to impose something.

If you want to be influenced by something positive, please do – there can never be too much positivity, but be influenced by the spirit that brought it to be; don’t just copy, in the hope that imitation will bring the same results. It may appear to do so, but it’s heart will be missing – and that is from where life flows.

Of course, I am spending all or most of my time in the best of France, or what France can be – why would I spend my days following roads I found distasteful? – but the fact that such a spirit exists and lives and thrives means there is no reason why this positive should not be ubiquitous, at the expense of the negative; rather than vice versa as so much of our mediated worlds lead us to believe.

Live life. Celebrate life. That is all. It’s easy, it really is, but for some reason we think it’s complicated – and that others enjoying life is to be envied, to maybe fear, and therefore to be curtailed. It isn’t. Just join in, or follow your own heart and passion, and you’ll soon find that other’s lives will bother you less and less as, simultaneously, you become part of a greater world of lives lived. And it’s a beautiful thing, it really is. You only have to do it and not heed those doubting voices with their vested interests – because those voices are not your own.

Electrohoppers

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Monday 14 August 2017: Le Val Langlais Wood to La Paulière Field

10:40am. Was awake at the usual time of 6:20. No journal this morning as I decided getting the route for the day down off maps.me on my iPad took priority. Was pleasantly surprised to see the E-Werk cache battery had been able to add 30% charge to the battery while we slept (well). But the app’s a right battery-drainer, so, by the time I’d taken me notes for today’s 54-or-so k, 10% had already been used; and that’s with the bez nadziejny GPS locator switched off. Don’t know why it’s so crap on the iPad. Maybe because it’s only using wi-fi and is not SIM-card enabled? Yup, that sounds feasible. But that leaves me with just under 40%, which should serve to survive till at least Tuesday evening with no economising, when, all being well, we check into a hotel for two nights, to enable us to have a proper rest-day.

Despite having had three easy riding days since setting off from Melton, Thursday 03 August, some eleven days ago, we have ridden every day since then, making today the twelfth consecutive day in the saddle; with tomorrow, too, and prospectively a tiny skip to the hotel check-in Thursday, that’ll be fifteen days in a row with some kind of pedal action; and, while we’re feeling good – great, in fact – and I’m feeling stronger each day and enjoying the spontaneity of camping ever ever more, it doesn’t hurt to rest before you’re proper tired, eat before you’re proper hungry, and drink before you’re proper thirsty; and Agnieszka has expressed that she’s feeling a little tired and wants or needs a proper rest day; so two nights in a hotel it is 😄

Still, it may give me an opportunity to have my front derailleur looked at, which is an issue that’s been bugging me for some time, and now it does seem to be becoming an issue on its own now: kicking my chain off a cog on two sensitive occasions. So, better to get it seen to as something minor before it turns into, or causes, something major.

‘Just’ a question of finding someone who knows what they’re doing, and is able to understand that minor little thing I’d like them to look at and adjust – and no more, because, apart from that, the bike is a dream, which is why little niggles maybe speak a little louder than they did on my previous bike.

I find certain bicycle maintenance things frustrating, not because things need maintaining or issues need to be resolved, but because I cannot do them on my own. I’m an independent sort, always have been, and when the power to resolve something is taken away out of my hands, I’m not completely at peace.

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As we rolled into an industrial shopping park today to stock up on supplies, I scuffed a front pannier on a cement bollard. An edge was caught, so the surface has been taken off that part of the pannier. Not a hole, but a weak point that I’ve hopefully reinforced sufficiently with some duct tape. We’ll see, but I’m happy enough.

Slowly but surely our equipment is betraying the signs of use, of knocks and scrapes, and wear and tear, which is fine: every mark tells a story. No-one expects, or wants, nothing to go wrong – as long as there’s a means to attempt to rectify the problem within our grasp … which returns me to my front derailleur – grrrr!

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Anyway, we definitely feel like we’re in a different climate now. The sky is a slightly different shade of blue, the earth is a little lighter to the touch, the trees reach a little more up than out, the bugs are more elaborately assorted, the buildings are less dense, and Monday in a business park seems a little less hectic than on a Sunday further North, which is nice to see at a time when, sadly, shopping has become a leisure and pleasure activity for far too many in this consumerist world.

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Today, we head generally South. From here we’re stopping in some attractive-looking park in Chemille-en-Anjou. Great to have the choice of the World for your eating and sleeping locales – and to always be a part of it as we make our way between them. Then to Toutlemonde – I love saying that word 😃 – some 22 kilometres from the park. From there, West, South-West, to a tiny village just South of a river – about 23 kilometres further on. So, about 55 kilometres for the day, though we’ll stop somewhere before the final village at some suitable-looking place to lay our heads.

But where? we know not yet – and life is great (don’t bug me further chain/derailleur) 😀

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2225. Crickets, grasshoppers and electrohoppers – in fine fine chirrup. It’s so nice that you only register it as a song, but, knackered as I am, after almost five hours of upwardly undulating riding, in a Sunny 30º-plus heat, that song will not allow sleep to claim me. What the fuck are they playing at? Can they hear it? Or do they feel it? Do they have ears? Do we have ears? What we hear are only words formed from vibrations, after all, so I guess they do feel and, therefore, hear it.

So can I.

That magical evening song of Southern Europe. That beautiful harmony. The insect chorus.

They rule the world, don’t they – insects. Oh, they’re not so large, individually, not so visible, but they are everywhere, inconspicuously going about their business. Meaning no harm to anything except their next meal. Almost oblivious to you and to me. Unless an odour you emit suggests lunch to them, then you are the meaning of their world – the lightbulb to the moth. Then they barely give a fuck that you’re a huge lumbering Goliath who can swat them with the 

nonchalant swing of a drunken limb. Or they nip you in the place they know – yes, know – they’re not going to get disturbed. Whatever they are, they’re different and they’re everywhere – whether they’re coming for you or not.

We share the world with them, but not them alone – they have their predators. We’re not really one. We may commit mass genocide on them with our sprays, our modified plants and our habitat theft, but we’re not a bird, a larger insect, a spider or a small mammal, who we’re also killing through sprays and plants and theft. And all for whose sake?

Ha-ha, not who you think.

For our insect lords to come.

And not the nice ones,
but the ones who can deal with the toxins we’ve developed,
who’ve mutated to fight all wiles.

They’re mutant insect superbeasts – and they’re coming for you and for me 😃😗

Favourable Conditions

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Sunday 13 August 2017: Forest-before-Feneu to Le Val Langlais Wood

9:30.

Still decamping. Good sleep.

The importance of good hygiene; of good ‘downstairs-business’ hygiene; of good hygiene in all those cracks and crevices.

We’re on that. Inspecting each other for bugs and bites, like regular chimpanzees.

So, while aesthetically we may not be admitted to the Ritz, we are as clean and go to go as a surgeon’s operating tools (pre-operation); and a damn sight cleaner than many of the gelled, soaped and perfumed purveyors are underneath all those contrived smells.

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Midday.

By the River La Mayenne. Thirty-minute ride to be here, but it was worth it – well worth it. Peaceful river. Fisherman. Family on a little cruise boat. Hikers. Bikepackers. All rested within a little village. And benches – beauuuutiful benches 😃

Draped on Finkel is the fly-sheet, on Einhorn the tent, spread out on the ground are the, ahem, groundsheets, the bike covers are open and hanging on posts, and other things are scattered. I’m optimistic that conditions will dry out our things sufficiently before we continue making our merry way towards Chemille-en-Anjou, some 50km of very-pleasant-looking bike-ride away, passing through the city of Angers, as we make our way South-Westerly tracing the river.

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21:35. Crickets chirrup. A distant dog barks at the rising moon. It’s 21.5º. The sodden evening of yesterday feels so far away. The whole temperate Northern-European-Thing seems to have surrendered to a more Southern vibe, without much in the way of warning. We were told by numerous people that France is a country made up of very distinct countries: you travel x-amount of kilometres in any direction and you enter a different world. “Yeah,” we thought, “we are all sensitive to things like that within our own countries.”

However, Normandy clearly gave way to Pays-de-la-Loire, which, aside from some great looking apples and pears, wasn’t the most endearing part of the pleasure-fest that has been the majority of France so far since re-entering at Dieppe just over a week ago. A ‘week’: not much, in terms of time, but an age in terms of memories and experiences.

Then today, as we entered Avrillé, we felt all Souther European. Followed by exiting the lazily, beautifully situated city of Angers, along the River Loire, to be greeted by vineyards and grapes, and fields and vineyards, and rolling hills and beautiful views, and picturesque towns where families do picturesque things, savouring the pleasures of life, just for the pleasure and nothing more, in a way certain slightly more uptight or self-conscious Northern European countries struggle vainly to imitate. But yes, another country. This is not the grandeur that is Normandy, this is not the drizzly Midlands on a Tuesday afternoon of Pays-de-la-Loire, this is not the new seaside development of Avrillé, this is not the island coastal vibe of Angers. This is the vineyard cliché of France.

Now I see that France does indeed have many distinct aspects to it. Each could be said to be a cliché, but they’re just one part, one fragment of the fascinating, charming patchwork that makes up this country. It offers so much, but in an unfussy way, in its own way, in its own time, in its own place; trying to be nothing other than as it is. Of course, this is the unforced joie de vivre that gives it its grace and charm. It’s not a show, or maybe it is, but it’s all so practised, so rehearsed by now, that it’s second nature, which is nature to the unschooled observer.

I often felt that the problem many people seem to have with the French is that they are not French – and I’m not seeing anything to disprove that. We’re only 430km in, it’s a big country and there’s a whole load that can happen between now and next time to colour my view another shade, but on top of the view I had held previously, of a people prepared to be who they are as a people, rather than bend too far to the voracious caprice of neoliberal globalisation, I now see the France that many have spoken of – so, sorry for being trite, but I’m just being honest – of a nation of people that know how to enjoy life. Well, I hope they do enjoy life, because they sure know how to do pleasure, and their country and well-tended surroundings and environment play their role majorly majorly majorly, too, so it’d be a shame if they didn’t. I know I am – and I know we are.

Just hope I can find someone to have a look at my front derailleur on our rest day in La Roche-sur-Yon cos’ me chain coming off a couple of times soured the joyful flavours somewhat; but again, mainly it’s because of my own limitations at not knowing what to do about it. So, as with certain attitudes towards the French, they and it are based upon an awareness of our own shortcomings rather than anything inherent in the people or, on this occasion, Finkel.

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