Had an amazing day cycling to Portsmouth today. 1 mile in Machynlleth. 7 hours on 3 trains. 1 mile in Portsmouth. Cycling holidays are so easy. My Gazelle is a massive carrying horse.
My Gazelle is a Dutch bike in case you’re worried I’ve ditched my vegan principles and taken up savannah rustling. Although I have to say right now I have no idea how to sustain veganism on two wheels. I probably need my own team Sky nutritionist but failing that send me succour and vegan tips.
Anyway at 2 miles per day there shouldn’t be any problem. Let’s get things straight at the start, and this will help my mum worry less, I’m no Tim Moore. You can call me Tim less. If I need a train, I’ll take a train.
Anyway, tomorrow I’ve got to cycle 30 miles to reach my first campsite in France so that will be 32 miles cycled.
Tonight I’m staying with the perfect air bnb host. Kay is seventy and about to fly to Goa for the winter. She made me tea and took me on a tour around Portsmouth, some of which was blocked off by a massive police cordon for a suspected bomb alert which later turned out to be a barbecue and a firework in a bin. Thankfully the statue of Nelson was facing out to sea.
Portsmouth is ‘British military history by the sea’. There are the fortified ‘hotwalls’, part of which have now been repurposed as artists studios, Nelson’s ship Victory (in which a ten year old Allan pretended to be a gunpowder boy) and a museum commemorating the D Day landings.
Many of the soldiers who fought on that day took a journey close to the one I’m taking tomorrow. As I sit here in my cosy bijou apartment listening to the rain and wind outside I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like to bob endlessly in a dark rain washed English Channel waiting for the order to invade, knowing that this day could quite easily be your last.
Nevertheless I wanted to start my European odyssey here. We celebrate D Day as a milestone in British history, which indeed it is, as it is for the other nations that fought that day, but it is also the moment that Europe was born again. The army that crossed the sea on D Day were delivering a new idea of what Europe could be as well as a military victory. And that idea was to forge a new European identity based on co-operation and communal self interest. I don’t know if any of the soldiers were thinking that as they crossed over to Normandie but their leaders certainly were. They knew that Europe had to reinvent itself to put behind it hundreds of years of bitter rivalry and violent conflict.
And with those thoughts I will
say goodnight. See you tomorrow!