Well, rather embarrassingly it’s been over four months since my last blog post. I had hoped to add a few other updates, but getting everything sorted has simply taken up all my free time; in a good way of course.
After formally handing in my notice to Bird & Bird LLP, I had a period of about 3 and a half months remaining which I thought would be a reasonable amount of time to get everything wrapped up. The reality of course was much different! It went by so quickly that I really did struggle to fit everything in; in fact it’s questionable that I got everything done, certainly all of what I had wanted to – but hey, that’s life I suppose.
So, in my last post I commented that I don’t have a bike and I haven’t cycled in 10 years! So what have I done about it? Well, in February I trotted down to Bridgwater in Somerset with my great (and hugely supportive) friend Veronica. I had no idea what to expect, though I took great comfort in the fact that I was able to simply order a bike very similar to Dan’s (the same shop built his). So, my “I want one of those” order went in followed by the creation of a significant but necessary dent in my bank balance.
A few weeks later with my bike built and collected, I took it (still unnamed) on it’s inaugural cycle to where my parents live in Exeter; a distance of about 44 miles (70 KM)…no sweat for you cyclists i’m sure. Slightly unnerved by the assistant (and likely cycling pro) exclaiming “really?, rather you than me!”, I set off – handlebars wiggling and feet slowly working out what to do with the pedals. Like a total novice, I hadn’t appreciated the harshness of my new Brooks saddle; something which my jeans (yes, I know, another major cycling faux pas) offered little comfort. Needless to say, what felt like 24 hours later (it was actually only about 4/5 hrs), multiple Mars bars and bottles of Lucozade, I arrived bruised and beetroot faced at my parents house only to be greeted with mild amusement and the quip – “so you’re going to cycle across Africa then?!”. Of course they were right; I was, but my goodness I’d better get used to the cycling!
“Buy padded cycling shorts” Jimi exclaimed on Facebook; moments later they were ordered.
Le cycle to Paris…
Needless to say, padded cycling short purchases (and indeed many other strange and wonderful accessories) later, a group of us set out on a cycle from London to Paris. The intrepid adventurers were Veronica, Eve, Pete, Rob Fuller and myself; the starting point was Battersea Park – the target, the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Champs-Élysées. After about 3 hours, 2 punctures and many cups of coffee (not to mention Haribo sweets and peanuts), we were still in Wandsworth – total cycling distance less than 10 miles! Moving on from our unfortunate start, we made good progress only to be pelted by rain as we headed into Surrey. Thankfully, the glimpse of a pub raised motivation so we pulled in there for some food; or in my case something truly horrific – a quadruple burger made from, well, I’m not entirely sure but I hope at some point it lived.
My own map navigation let us down slightly; only a little – but err, slightly. I found myself trying to keep peace and spinning a “scenic route” that involved the middle of Gatwick Airport…but we eventually all arrived in New Haven for our midnight ferry to Dieppe. Hooray!
Five hours later we arrived and rolled off hoping to find some food. However, instead and much to our horror, we found nothing; only an uphill road leading off into the dark which was only later replaced by a much longer uphill road in the wind and rain. Images of cycling through Provence-like scenery with a baguette under one arm and a bottle of rouge under the other this was not! After a spot of motorway cycling (not sure how that happened) and another 4 hours, we eventually arrived at a cafe where, thanks to the French speaking capabilities of Veronica, we were able to beg for two baguettes. This was a turning point in the trip. Thereafter spirits were raised and the following days of cycling were much more enjoyable; picturesque at times and actually enjoyable! The glossing of the cake was of course reaching the Arc de Triomphe where we, quite triumphantly, cycled around the Place Charles de Gaulle with bells ringing and all of us rather oblivious to the other 7 lanes of traffic that chaotically merge at this point. Meeting us at the Arc was great fried Dave MacDonald who had hoped to join us on the cycle but, unfortunately, was unable to do so due to an infection in his arm. What followed after reaching our destination was a great night of celebration and, erm, a few beers and the odd (I can only remember one or two) Jägerbombs; job done 🙂
With the Paris ride complete and my time at Bird & Bird drawing to a close, I knew the moment of final goodbyes was on the horizon. But most certainly not when I expected it, I can assure you of that. Completely unbeknown to me, my wonderful Sister (Laura) had very diligently, secretively and kindly arranged a surprise party for me in a local bar/pub. I had thought I was simply going out for a few drinks with friends, but that plan change slightly when we moved locations to go and meet some of Veronica’s other friends “who just so happened to be in the area”. Still none the wiser we walked over, up into the bar area where I was greeted, with sheer surprise, by a wonderful selection of close friends and family. I can’t really recall due to the shock much of what happened after that, but it was a wonderful night complete with a very tasty and professionally prepared “Better Life Cycle: Cairo to Cape Town” cake. It was a wonderful evening and I can only begin to express my level of gratitude in this blog; but to my sister especially and all those who came along and/or helped organise, thank you; most sincerely.
A week or so later and my final day at Bird & Bird was upon me. After 6 years and having made a lot of great professional relationships and friendships, I was very sad to leave. But after so much, the time was right; as mentioned in my previous blog post it was now or perhaps never to do what I was intending. My last day was a very strange affair; it didn’t feel real, but I was humbled by all the effort everyone put into my last day (in particular my manager Mark Mountford) in plastering the walls with pictures (most of them of me in compromising/unflattering situations!), not to mention balloons, a count down clock displayed onto the wall and, finally, my own edition of our IT Newsletter; all great memories and to everyone at Bird & Bird, thank you for a fantastic send off – I won’t forget it.
And so in to the final week…
Quickly in to my final week and I was frantically online ordering the items I’d need for the adventure – everything from thermarests to thermal jackets, bike accessories, shoes and of course spare parts! It was also a great time to have final catch ups with close friends and family before the off, an event which drew ever closer. I had so much help from family and friends over the last few weeks I can’t possibly list everything here – but to everyone who contributed a massive thank you; it goes without saying I’d not be on my way to Africa if it wasn’t for your very kind assistance.
So that’s it; bike is boxed, flat is decorated and ready to rent; London Marathon completed and legs ready for the long road ahead. A very busy start to the year but all worth while i’m sure; for what lies ahead is unknown, but I can’t wait to join Dan in Africa. What will be, will be; but Africa, here I come!