Thursday, 28 March 2019

Reveries is coming OUT

The news --

Reveries will be released as an ebook (Kindle edition) this FRIDAY, 29 MARCH. Save the date. A paperback publication will follow in a month or two - it's a work in progress.

An especially brilliant thing --

5 artist friends of mine have produced 5 original artworks relating to the book. 1 is being used as the official book cover, for the ebook and print editions. The other 4 will exist as standalone artworks, and all of them are available through the Kickstarter reward system (more below).

Finnegan Travers is a freelance visual artist from Totnes, based in London, specialising in photography, video graphic design. His design will feature as the book's actual front cover. It is striking and minimal and unlike anything else I've seen. (Image above)

Tom Stockley is a lo-fi performer, writer, designer and organiser based in the South West of England. Founding member of We Are Uncollective and Langaland Festival.

Leah Kirby
 is a shadow puppeteer, visual and physical artist and educator living Totnes, UK. View her Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with what she's up to! Her drawing is a blend of styles, reminds of Quentin Blake but is so much more, and captures the fairytale elements of the novel wonderfully.

Lucy Vyain is a French painter and illustrator currently living and working in Totnes, UK. She produces moving portraits and hauntingly surreal landscapes, including a series of stripped-back Senegalese portraits, which are what caught my eye originally. She also paints trees beautifully. View her portfolio here

Dawood Vilcassim is a Sri Lankan visual artist, living and studying in Galle. Despite being much younger than the other artists, he followed the brief with panache, and introduced elements I hadn't thought of myself. Visit his Instagram here.


Finally, Laura Willerton is, among other things, a fabulous textile artist. She hand-embroiders every t-shirt with love and care, to order. These are available through the Kickstarter reward system.


I have launched a Kickstarter crowdfund campaign in order to fund:
  • A print-run of the book here in Sri Lanka, so that it can be available in brick-and-mortar stores
  • A separate print-run in the UK so that I have advance copies to give to reviewers, books for shops and cafes that want to stock it, and copies for me to sell at, say, events or launches
  • An audiobook, for which I will pay voice actors

View the campaign HERE
and my website, for more information, HERE

Please show your support by pledging - any amount is a great help! Or, if you can't/don't want to, please pass it on to someone who might be interested and is able to help.

There are some brilliant rewards available to generous supporters, including hand-embroidered original-design t-shirts (by Laura Willerton, above), posters of the above artworks, and signed copies of the paperback when it comes out.

Thanks so much!


Friday, 23 November 2018

Sri Lanka is different to England


I have lived in Sri Lanka for over 2 weeks now and have spotted quite a few ways in which it is different to England, which is my home country. I'm qualified to point these out because 2 weeks is a pretty long time.

Think of this as one of those Buzzfeed lists which are compelling because of the way the list format draws you in, and on. Except I won't number the list entries. Actually yes I will.

1. Weather

It is currently 29 degrees. It's supposed to be raining but it's not. I don't know what it will be like year round but I know it will never be bollock freezing, until something really drastic happens. Supposedly it will get hotter over the next couple of months. We don't have hot water at the moment, except when it is really hot, which is when you don't want hot water, so there's that.

I'm not rubbing it in, I'm just saying.

2. Fruit

In our garden there is a coconut tree, a banana tree, three papaya trees, a passionfruit bush and a cheeky lil plant which I've signed an NDA for so can't name. We have also just planted a garden trough and various pots with a bunch of herbs and three types of tomato and three types of lettuce and all the other whathaveyous.

A is for aubergine. B is for bell pepper. C is for cauliflower, and chives. D is for Don't you wish you lived 2 mins from the sea?

3. Lizard

We have a monitor lizard called Toby who takes care of all the insects (not). He is quite long, maybe 120cm from tongue to tail. He pops by occasionally but actually doesn't stick around much. I haven't got a picture of him but this is broadly what he looks like. All told, monitor lizards are f*cking cool, and they have massive paws, which they use to catch the gnarliest waves.

4. Monkey

Pests here are called Cheeky Monkeys, because they are monkeys. They hop around on all fours with baby monkeys clinging to their chests and eat all the passionfruits off our bush.

There he is, the bastard.

Get him, Zombie.

"Meow." (No)

We encourage Zombie (the cat) to growl at them but he is much smaller than them, and they have four hands to punch with. So Zombie tells us to nominate someone our own size and rubs his head on a plantpot. Then he just lies there, doing fuck all and looking adorable.

He has a sedentary lifestyle and likes dog food even more than he likes sitting on the wardrobe, or licking people's food during a party.

Peripheral members of the family are Terreh, Christopher Reeve and Jeeves, all dogs, and two cats called Sally and Frankie Big Nuts. She is welcome, he is not.


You can swim here without feeling like the underworld is gripping you from beneath and trying to pull you down into a frozen abyss.


There are also some similarities, like cashews are expensive, and riding a motorbike is fun. (I didn't do that in England but I assume it is also fun there. It certainly is fun in China. Happy to handle any disputations over a cup of Lion beer, or Erotic Nights tea.)

Say hello to my little friend,


Also making things from scratch is still fun, maybe more so than before. So far I have made peanut butter out of peanuts, coconut milk out of coconuts, and a cocktail called Grey, which contains neither peanuts nor coconuts.

Together we have made all kinds of things, all of which are vegan, like vegan sausages and vegan burgers and vegan meatballs, only I think it's a bit silly to call a vegan meatball a vegan meatball, because meatball denotes meat, and veganism denotes the absence thereof, therefore "vegan balls", only that also sounds a bit shit, so I find myself in a bit of a pickle.

Anyway it's all delicious.

Swing by some time.


Monday, 3 September 2018

A Bike of One's Own - Baku to Blighty

Another poem

In a nutshell, then, said Loquat to Plum
as she turned out her pockets and examined the sum,
In a walnut shell--as they are the best,
whether holding down papers or building a nest--
In the shell of a nut, condensed just for you,
the story's no longer than one line or two,
And I promise you, if I abridge it thus,
you'll roll away chipper, without any fuss,
For if it be shortened in just such a way
there'll be zero time for chagrin or dismay.
So sit you down there upon this yellow leaf
and listen. I assure you, I will keep it brief,
For brevity touches the coin of the heart
just right. Now, where should I start...?
At the beginning, you evergreen twat,
else I'll punch you. Like what? Like this. Splat.



In a nutshell, then: I'm back in the UK and I'm very happy. Happy to be back, happy to have done and to have been, happy in an innermost sense, and excited. More on that later.

Lots happened and I felt very emotional. The sun shone and I felt very warm, then the rain fell. This is real rain, not figurative. None of the latter has really fallen, only drifted in a cosily moistening way - though this is real as well, and felt. More on that later. Much time has passed, for me anyway, though time here's not like when you're eight, says that mysterious somebody, referring no doubt to being in Armenia among millions of apricots and finding that as long as there are still apricots (in Armenia, there are always still apricots), there is still time. Though actually, maybe that's how it was when we were eight.


One Last Georgian Dunk

The trip back from Baku started with a train to Tbilisi with a Dutch girl I lost on arrival. Taking a bicycle on a transnational (transcontinental really, if Georgia's Europe and Azerbaijan's Asia, which is how they identify, as far as I could tell) locomotive out there is an interesting and slightly wobbly experience, and involves a gamble. This is because no one can tell you for sure if it will be allowed. But so you buy the ticket and hope for the best. Brandish it with a smile. Arrive, be nice. Find your carriage. Speak to the lady. Be thankful when she nods her assent. Sweat profusely in the night air while you negotiate the bike and bags onto the train and, partly disassembling it, wheel it down to the opposite end of the carriage and wedge it in the compartment there by the door. Hope no one opens the door from the outside. Buy a bottle of ice from the kindly gentleman on the bench outside. Enter train, find bunk, sweat. Hold ice. Feel cool softness of frozen water on skin. Sweat, sleep sweat.

In Tbilisi, Merrily and I watched England v Croatia at the John Donne outdoor terrace fancy cocktail bar. We lost. I took a train to Kutaisi the next day and, leaving the city on my bike, sought a place to stay. This is where things got fruity.

I was hollered over by a large man in his mid fifties, fewer buttons done than undone, bushels of grey curls protruding from his paunch, a glint in his eye. First came beer, then came a liquor, name unknown, strength of whisky. We ate crisps and one of the young men was pushed forwards, nominated chief on account of his knowledge of English. He was very accommodating and answered lots of questions. They were mostly in their late twenties, except the paunchy patriarch in the shirt. Most had wives who were at home with their children. One child was present, two or three years old. The only woman was the boss of the shop. After the whisky-coloured liquor was gone, they brought out vodka. Note: this was not my first time drinking with Georgians, so I had an idea of what to expect, and was enjoying the afternoon. Around five or six pm, my host took me to his house around the corner. He introduced me to his neighbour and we smoked some homegrown.

Early evening, we go inside. Two large jugs of wine come out, followed by food. I honestly can't recall specific dishes but I remember it was wholesome and very very delicious. Georgian food is the best. Everyone outside the cities grows their own produce. Organic is a given, pesticides are unheard of. They have chickens and pigs, grape vines and fruit trees, they grow gourds and spring onions and maize and berries. They make bread. This is normal.

Wine flows, and we begin the toasts. In Georgia there are typically ten toasts (if you have one drink, you must have three. If you have three, you must have ten. There's no use protesting). I forget the order, but the tamada leads a procession of toasts to, for example: family, Georgia as a nation, one's dead relatives, one's descendants, the military, our parents, our brothers and sisters, etc. At intervals of five or ten minutes (or whenever anyone chooses to pick up their glass and initiate the next round), we drain a tumbler of wine. This is immediately refilled. Repeat.

Our friends arrive from the shop and quickly catch up with us (drinkwise). Once they have drunk ten glasses, on top of all that came before, we're all pretty fucking merry. But merry doesn't cut it. It is announced - "now we start to drink!" And drink they did. I had it on good confidence that one chap could easily get through seven litres of wine. He claimed ten. He picks up his friend with one arm and dances with him in his embrace, wailing and clapping like a shepherd possessed. The father, after insisting I take photos of him plus fireplace, him plus three year old, him plus fireplace from this angle, etc., takes me to the booze closet. This is where they ferment and distil the wine. He shows me the wine bin with a glint in his eye. Reaching behind the demijohns, with the honeyed delicacy of a priest wielding some sacred orb, he retrieves and presents to me a flask of clear liquid. This is their chacha, a DIY spirit made from the mash left over from wine production. His mouth flickers maniacally. It's 80% ABV, I am told. He hands me a crystal glassful, eyes glowing as if in the presence of some divine fluid. The heat of it trickles down my spine and sits at the bass of my stomach, warming all my limbs with little sparks.

He laughs as we re-enter the room. One guy is on a mattress, the three year old is in the swing. Somebody is playing guitar and two men are wrestling, or dancing, I can't tell. It is one o'clock. Papa lights a fire and prepares some of the finest barbecue meat I've ever had. I eat some and take my place on the sofa. My eyelids are anvil-heavy. I've never been quite so drunk. The frivolity continues, but I am out.

(Videos attest to the ridiculousness of this whole garbled scene)

I wake up around ten, splash water on my face, brush my teeth, squeeze the alcohol from my veins and step outside, whence I am summoned by my host. He places a couple of two-litre bottles of Georgian beer on the table. I wince. "The best thing to do after you drink, is to drink!" He's not kidding. We drink beer and eat nuts before going back out to the shop. They're all there, they're all drinking, they have vodka and beer, they're laughing. It's a new day. What to do? Drink. And that's all there is to do.

I take my leave.


It rained a lot and I sang in it. In Batumi I met and stayed with the below fine gentlemen from S.Korea/US, Georgia, Iran and Iran respectively, and some great ladies too. Can't recommend this hostel enough for its jovial atmosphere, fabulous hosts and proximity to Baklava House.


Menemen / Menenene (Kevin)

One of my rituals when staying in a hostel was to make menemen, usually on night #1. This is a great Turkish dish using basically all the cheapest vegetables - onion, garlic, bell/sweet pepper and a whole lot of tomato. Also mushroom or courgette, though I don't know what purists would say to that. Sometimes cheese, though I never did. Once all the tomato juice has reduced, you make little craters in the mass of food and break eggs into them. Cook eggs with lid on, steamy. Large pile of parsley to serve. Eat with hands and bread. This brings the family together, and is a great way to settle in.

This time, Farid added special Iranian aubergines which elevated the menemen to Level 5 tasty.

At last I boarded the ferry to Ukraine. Getting hold of a ticket for this was a story in itself, though not a particularly exciting one. The crossing lasted approx 2.5 days. Meals provided at strict o'clock. I bunked with a Czech motorcyclist who was a very keen bean. Other foreigners in the shape of this driver from France (below) and a Swedish motorcyclist. We ate large Ukrainian portions and sunned ourselves on deck with the other drivers and an occasional family. Almost all the cars being transported from Georgia to Ukraine were to be sold. This is a Ukrainian business plan, but don't tell anybody I told you.

In Odessa I met three Slovakian cyclists, first-timers, who had come down from Kiev along the banks of the Dniester. I camped up here, just above the beach. Evening swim, morning swim.

^ Ukrainian fish market.


I crossed from Ukraine to Moldova just north of Odessa, except it wasn't Moldova, it was Russia. Except it's not Russia, it's Transnistria. In Moldova they speak Romanian, which is close to Latin, uses Latin script, etc. Their currency is the Moldovan Lei and they drink Moldovan wine. In Tansnistria, they use roubles (not Russian ones), write in Cyrillic, speak Russian and look back on the 20th century through red-tinted lenses.

Transnistria is an unrecognised state covering the area between the Ukrainian border and the Dniester river (Transdniester -> Transdniestria -> Transnistria), a de jure part of Moldova - legally, but not necessarily in reality. Along with South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, it is a post-Soviet "frozen conflict" zone, where there is kind of war but really no war. Lots of military vehicles and a big Russian vibe but a cease-fire since 1992 means no oppressive atmosphere, just a nostalgic Soviet micro-land. I camped by the river in Tiraspol, the de facto capital, and it was lovely.

In Chișinău, everything changed, and then it changed again, so I went to see a photo exhibition, and read the lines

Since the day I saw you last 
Many, many years have passed

And they struck a cord. First I thought of this person, then I thought of that person. Now I'm reading them and thinking of another person. It's a couplet that will stick with me.

My Hungarian Benefactor

So then I was in Brașov, Romania. The Carpathians loomed ahead of me, flatlands behind. The air grew cooler and signs for bears started to appear. Fortunately no bears themselves, though I did hear some growling in the hills far away.

I camped one night by a picnic bench and water spout, freezing cold water shooting out of the mountain. A few people came by during the course of the evening to fill up a bootload of bottles. One family pulled up and the kids set to work. The father and I got talking in German and he told me they were Hungarian-Romanians. I later learned that a large swathe of Romania is populated by Hungarians, as a consequence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. More reading to be done there.

This man was amazed at the thought of me camping the night there. As soon as I told him, he fell into a deep, pensive silence. This lasted perhaps a minute or two, during which the whole family watched him. He was very severe, in this moment. At last he got up and walked over to the information board, which was a board containing information about the flora and fauna to be found in the area. Seemingly satisfied that I would go unscathed, unmauled, that night (no bears round these parts), he pressed ten Romanian leu (just under £2) into my hand. I told him I didn't need it but he was insistent, the kind of fellow who needs to know himself that he has done something to help. I thanked him, spoke to one of the kids, we all laughed and they left, all smiles.

In the morning another Hungarian chap came up to fill up bottles. This man was more used to the idea of a bicycle traveller, but insisted he take me up the hill in his small car. The bike was tied half in the boot with a bungee cord and we set off. He took me to his hunting lodge, where Germans and Brits come to shoot animals dead. We had coffee and he told me about his son, who was also on a cycle trip, somewhere in Finland. As I was leaving, he too pressed into my hand a crumpled note, and gave me his packed lunch, pointing at his belly and gesturing as if to say, 'your need is greater than mine'. In this way I grew fond of the Hungarian population of Romania. I carried on up the hill.

Carpin in the Carps

The Carpathians form a tremendous European mountain arc from Austria and Czechia in the west to Serbia in the south, Ukraine and Romania in the east. They also dance over Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, house the bulk of Europe's brown bears, wolves and lynxes and reach over 2.5 vertical kilometres into the sky. Working my way north from Brașov, the rocks loomed over me in twists and turns, and signs appeared foretelling the unwelcome appearance of large beasts.

I got to Pojorâta (below) with thrilling legs and ate Romanian donuts in the sunshine. The tourist information lady assured me that the 42km climb to the Ukrainian border village of Shepit was passable - was, in fact, a border - and her silent male assistant looked at me through half-closed eyelids. He was gangly and speechless.

As the road neared Ukraine, it began to deteriorate. Potholes, lumps, cracks. These build character, and I had received assurance of the possibility of passing, so I let me character be built (while my arse was unbuilt). It was a hard slog but I made it in, I don't know, three hours, zipped down the other side and arrived at a small wooden bridge 3km from the actual border. A man in military garb stopped me, took my passport and handed it to an assistant, who disappeared. He asked several questions, all while fingering the butt stock of his large gun, feet angled outwards. He smiled but there was little in it. Eventually he told me, as if in passing, (note, no mutual language here, bar a few words) that I could not pass here because it was not a border. Of course, I thought, I should have known. My heart sank and I wanted him to hug me, at least to show some feeling. His partner was still fiddling with my passport, making scrawled notes on unlined paper and sucking on a piece of fish. They let me go and I went back up the hill, then back down the hill to Pojorâta, to the tourist information centre to let them know not to advise any more cyclists to cross at Shepit.

By and by, I made it to Ukraine, spent two nights in Kolomyia and then followed the Prut river up to Tatariv, turning west to reach Polyanytsya by early afternoon on the 5th August. Here I was joined by a throng of merrymakers, and we made merry for a week, eating and drinking excessively, gorgeously, and wrestling more than once. This Ukrainian food far surpassed that of the Black Sea ferry crossing - pickles of all kinds, fiery mushroom soups, bread-topped borscht, potato varenyky (and cherry varenyky! - Sweet dumplings), sweet porridge with homemade jams, the majestic salo (pork fat) and deep fried ice cream, all at least 50% cream and served with unfiltered beer and/or a variety of vodkas.

We were chaperoned, and humbled, by Yuri, Adonis, our madman athlete driver friend who could easily have been sculpted in marble and placed on pedestals from here to Hong Kong. We made toasts, often to love, and leaving out no one. There was a banya (steam sauna) where the last of our inhibitions were shed, and there was The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band. All else is a blur. All else is madness.

Look at these beauties.


For personal reasons (I wanted to have someone else cut my hair for once) I took a bus to Prague and another to Paris, then a train to Toulouse. Elbe was indignant when I started folding him up but sat very patiently in the hold of two coaches for a total of approximately 36 hours, punctuated by a pleasant morning in Czechia. I made it home to France home and got exactly what I wanted (below).

I saw these two sugarplums (above) and we made a music video (below) with one or two quite sinister frames. If you Google "Flora Butterton Wham" it will come up on Vimeo. It was a weird rite of passage thing, it's best if you don't question it.

Then followed the journey up the west coast of France. It was important for me to reach the UK by bicycle rather than flying back. Sadly this leg of the trip was plagued by swelling ankle tendons/muscles, which was a right arse to deal with and meant lugging the bike about on trains a couple of times. It was still pleasant, however, though surreal to be among so many other cyclists, short and long distance ones, old and young, and cycle lanes galore, Eurovelo routes, bike shops on every street; surrounded by modern shit, glass and steel and smooth paving, everywhere either built up or preserved, centuries-old limestone or slick panelling; everything regulated, everything known, expected and foreseen; everybody polite and western European; English spoken, foreigners normal and invisible; prices high, supermarkets unsurprising, even markets expensive, and cities multicultural. This was a jolt, and a faintly uneasy one, though excessively easy in terms of user experience. It's a world with a pleasant interface - ergonomic, genteel, at times saccharine yet impersonal. It's weird.

Anyway. I slept in Nantes, nursing my whatever was going on, for whatever reason, ate crêpes and met a poet, though I didn't buy his book. From Nantes I took a train to Rennes, then another to Morlaix. The French train system is also a delight, and also, therefore, slightly dull. Elbe and I bought beer and ate fish on the west bank of the Rivière de Morlaix. I kissed him goodnight, this night, as it would be our last just me and him. Next day we covered the 30km into Roscoff, mostly along the coast, and waited for the night ferry. Roscoff was nice. I learned about the 1978 Amoco Cadiz oil spill, the largest of its kind up to that date, which resulted in approximately 220,000 metric tonnes of oil being spilled into the English Channel 5km from the Brittany coast. This is a terrible and unreal story (& I admit most of this is paraphrased from Wiki).

The Amoco Cadiz was an oil tanker containing 1.6 million barrels of light crude oil from Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as 4,000 tonnes of bunker fuel. On its way from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam, it was hit by big waves. Its rudder 'stopped responding' (snapped? Note to companies who build oil tankers: build ruggeder rudders) at 09:45 on the 16th March, 1978. It transmitted a message of "no longer manoeuvrable" at 10:20 and a call for tug assistance an hour later. German boat Pacific responded within an hour and tried, over the course of many hours, in vain, to tug it from the coast. Cadiz, to the same end, dropped anchor, but it was too heavy, and the winds too strong, to keep it in place. That evening, at 21:04, it ran aground and flooded its engines. At 21:39, the hull was torn open. 10:00 the following morning saw the boat split in two, and its entire cargo flood into the open sea. The French Navy later destroyed the wreckage with depth charges. 

(These pics obviously aren't mine)

Over the following month, the oil slicked 320km of coastline and penetrated several beaches to a depth of 50cm. At the time, it was the largest loss of marine life resulting from an oil spill. Millions of dead molluscs and sea urchins washed ashore, 9000 tons of dead oysters, and up to 20,000 dead diving birds were found. There are plenty of pictures, sadder than these. Look, but don't look too hard. I went to a photo exhibition in a small stone room on the harbour, and it was very sad indeed.

Three and a half years later in a US Court it was ruled that Amico had 'put off needed maintenance on the vessel in order to keep it at sea', where it could earn. What does that remind us of, eh?

Fortunately the boat that would take me from Roscoff to Plymouth overnight had been well maintained. The crossing went swimmingly. The captain kept a tight ship. Watertight.

We came into port at 06:00 and had breakfast. I cycled to Totnes. That's that. It ended, I'm here. Mamma Mia.

Yes, I have ideas and plans (that's the 'excited' more on that later bit, from earlier. I'm not really expanding, and not at all on the rain bit, but you can ask me) I'll cycle again, but not for a while.

Well, goodbye. Thanks for reading. Good luck out there.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

View from Baku

It's hard to know what to write, especially after so long. To write something funny, or silly, or informative and interesting to those who want to learn a thing or two about the caucasus (it's a bloody interesting locale). A collection of reflections and experiences. There have been many experiences in the last x weeks. I have pictures, some good ones. Of places, people, people in places. But the ones which mean the most don't necessarily fit the mould. The blogger mould. They're for me and us to share and to smile about. I can't really sift through the experiences and select those which piece together the most exciting story, or build to the significant revelations, because I'm not in the mode of travel-writing, or really writing at all, and it's tiring, especially with two fingers. I've got countless tidbits and reflections jotted in 2 notebooks, on my phone as memos, carved into the back of my noggin and, most importantly, without wanting to sound too much like a trite traveller-poet nob, written into my disposition and character.

We discussed this earlier, by a river in Azerbaijan, after eating rice and before sleeping like babies (happy, sound-asleep babies). The whole thing with writing things down as you go, keeping a journal, an analog one, what you should write in it, who it's for, whether it's worth writing anything at all, whether it serves merely as a memory jogger, event tracker, to help recall and beat mind's fallibility, or as a series of writings to develop into something grander which definitely is for other people. Is a blog for other cyclists or for family? We both found blogs useful, Rene and I. Inspirational, even. Do we pay that forward or find another way to express ourselves? Is a blog about expressing yourself? There's much to express and there are certainly those I'd like to express myself to, but I'm not sure this is the medium.

I really have felt a great deal, for people and animals. And I've learned a lot about the way I deal with things like exhaustion, lack of sleep, and about the joy of sharing happiness, how to share it with yourself, or others, how it's different and differently pure and buoyant either way. I have seen what bodies are capable of and witnessed vastly different styles of living, some by choice, some by providence. There are people suffering and others laughing, and it doesn't necessarily correlate with affluence or opportunity or owning technology or even how many instagram followers you have.
I just stick on Rylynn and make coffee. Smile at the person opposite you, they're probably a real sweetie, with a secret passion for country music or miniature cooking or something. We all have our ways.

You are a part of other people's lives, wherever you are, so there's a responsibility. But you also write your own, so enjoy good.


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Riding Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey

- Go back in Bulgaria!
- I cannot pass?
- Go back!
- But, but...
- Listen, I am authority. Look, gun. You go back. 
- Yes officer.

I met Jörg on a detour I made unto Greece because my e-visa wouldn't let me into Turkey for another 2 days. He found me buying an ice cream, and bought me an ice cream. 

This was after I cycled along the weir that cuts the river just north of Kastanies on the Greek/Turkish border. I had wet shies but I had ice cream, so that didn't matter. We got shredded by mosquitoes, and gave ourselves two days to get to the Orient Hostel, Istanbul, where I would meet one Toby Paul. That's 250km and peachy as you like.

It really was mosquito time in the superlative, but we each of us made our bed and slept in it. I had gone for a swim, so at least there's that, too.

Technical difficulties and the sodding sod's law of tyres meant that this tyre had to go. But who leaves a tyre to get to this state of disrepair anyway? A damned fool, that's who. It's calling out for love! 

In Çorlu, we ate kebabs as long as our arms, and were ecstatic. Then we stayed in a HOTEL, which was plush. I got a new tyre, a trunkload of baklava and snacks galore. Tomorrow we set sail for the Bul, for a metropolis of 14 million and for Asia.

In Istanbul, Jörg left us and we spent 6 days eating fresh balik ekmek (fish sandwich), rice pudding, cucumber and tomato, fried bread with honey, dondurma (sticky ice cream. They do a show. Seen one, seen em all) and of course baklava. We went to an island where aristocratic persons used to be exiled and swam there with the black seabirds, discovered a real life museum, a site of rich modern historical content and dust. We laughed. 

On the Asian side, across the steaming Bosphorous. We looked up, and down, and found much to enjoy! We like the Asian side. 

Our first time across was when Batar hustled us over on a ferry and led us into a hamam. We had the full treatment, exhilarating and very soapy. Handsy and refreshing. 

Much construction work going on in the Sultan Ahmet Mosque and Hagia Sophia, and the cistern too. But that didn't faze us! We ran around like happy hinneys, learning all about History. History is what happens when cereal boxes are left out overnight and collect from the dripping imaginations of the stars.

Abandoned shadows hold fire like a doosey. A strong dose of heaven lies at the end of every banana, and porridge will be the last creature on earth once all the nuclear fallout has cleared. 

A disused hospital holds more immediate and tangible history than all the touristic spots in Istanbul, though maybe not combined. It is accessible, untouched, dusty with excess and ex-life, ex-use. There is the smell of human activity. Toby and I both got cuts, matching cuts, on the way out - not on syringes, but on a fence. We were touched by, interacted with, a depth of historical life unknown to visitors of the Hagia Sophia. Only took six years to build? Are you having me on?? A myth, says Jones, and I'm incinerate to agree. Aflame to a tree.

The stairs ascended to a plane just above the level of the clouds. Yes, a plane. How could it be true? Well, it's happened to you. Up there, where vultures circle, you feel like your life is a breath away from being snatched. It's the same as when you're hurtling down a hill at 60km/h and the canyon rises on both sides, flanks you like a parting sea, and seems to beckon you towards its base, a basin which has no bottom. Incidentally, there's a hole in my padded shorts, just above my bottom. It's no big deal, except that I've been told in non uncertain terms that padded shorts are to be worn without underwear. That's the point, says Alex, who is a certified bike guy and serviced my bike for no more than a smile and even chucked some fresh handbar tape in so... now Elbe's fresh as a whistle.

In Foça, I saw an old pal of school days, a man of viking descent possibly and with excellent taste in Greek restaurants. We ate bream, and it was subleam, or seablime. 

For the last few nights I've been in Izmir, cooshed in the warm bosom of a Spanish Turkish duo, whose welcome and warmth have been second to none and very delightful. A gorious week full of Turkish delights, including Turkish Delight and dancing about in the Med. I leave tomorrow with a happy heart and a good tummy. 

Now, I'm going to make a strawberry salad.

Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

Love to all the family. X