Brighton, the last gig of the ‘away’ section of my tour was a blast. We were in The Blue Man, a lovely little cafe/bar based around North African influences. It has a gorgeous basement area where we performed, with twinkly lights, and tables lit up from within. It definitely won the prize for prettiest venue of the tour. Thanks to all the hard work of Louie, the place was packed out, standing room only and therefore really rather warm!
The open mikers were all ace, with a couple of first timers who blew us away. Then came Natasha Moskovici, and Syred, who, like a lot of my support on the tour, made my stress levels rise as I worried about going on after such awesome talents. Thankfully, as I looked around the crowd, I was pretty convinced my own brand of filth would go down well. And so it proved, and once I got into my set I really enjoyed myself. Because of the other poems read on the night, I decided to read ‘Infinite Lottery Balls’ my poem about the unlikelihood of being alive as a nice uplifting ending – however, I wasn’t allowed to finish without doing my ‘finger’ poem, and so I had to do my first ever encore… Thanks Brighton, you were top, can’t wait to be back. We raised £140 for The Clock Tower Sanctuary, a great result, and especially poignant as I’d passed so many people huddled in sleeping bags on my way to the venue.
After a bit of a muddle, I eventually found my way back to where I was supposed to be sleeping for the night. I’d have loved to stay out later, but as on so many nights, I was shattered, and a big day was dawning tomorrow.
I stayed with the lovely Persephone Pearl and family, who made me very welcome, and fed me up nicely in the morning with some lovely porridge. The little present their cute dog left me on my bedroom floor was less welcoming though! I’ll try not to take it personally!
It was 9ish by the time I got going for the final ride of the trip, a nice sunny yet of course windy day. Riding along the seafront was a pleasure as always and yet another surreal moment as I realised I’d be back in Reading in a few hours time. 79 miles until home.
The ride wasn’t too bad, my happiness of being nearly finished helped to compensate for my increasingly fatigued legs. My knees in particular were struggling in the wind and up the hills, and there were a lot of hills! There’s a reason they stage professional cycle races in Surrey.
Like the rest of the tour I just took it one 20 mile stretch at a time, and slowly spun my way home. It was nice to be back in the South Downs National Park, where I call home, passing familiar places and using roads I’ve travelled before.
Eventually, just passed Farnham, my odometer ticked over to the 700 mile mark. I wanted to shout and celebrate, punch the air, but this coincided with two huge trains of cars heading in both directions, and I felt self conscious. A couple of very reserved and very English fist pumps had to suffice.
Into the outskirts of Reading the last few miles ticked down, I phoned home to tell them to put the kettle on and smiled my way home. Well, except for my one moment of road rage on the entire trip, a white van man decided to give a long toot of his horn as he passed me. Me cycling nice and straight and steady, him with lots of space to pass, my mere presence on the road was obviously deeply irritating to him. I suspect it was because there is a cycle path next to this particular bit of road that I wasn’t using. But given the choice between a grit strewn (i.e. puncture city) path that I have to cut across junctions and go out of my way to use, or a nice wide, clear stretch of road, I’m going to choose road every time. Sorry dude, you’re just going to have to learn to share. We all did in primary school.
I turned into my parent’s road, fighting back emotion, and pulled up at their house to be greeted by my mum, dad, sister, balloons and cake!
Fighting back emotions was the theme of the next few hours as I struggled to hold myself together through all the congratulations and reunions.
I had a hot bath before I left the house to go to the cafe, and regretted it, with a pounding heart and light head I wasn’t entirely sure I wouldn’t collapse, let alone make it far enough to do my final performance.
After shoving a few more calories in my gob I cycled the last couple of miles into Reading and stepped into the madness of the Global Cafe, greeting friends old and new. I had to stop people talking about sleep, just the thought of a lie in was enough to tip me close to the edge. We had taken over the place, to the extent that so many people had ordered food they renamed a menu item in my honour. Now I know I’ve made it!
So then the final gig, surrounded by friends and family of both Lizzie and myself I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. Becci- Louise started the evening off really well then it was great to see some Launchpad clients getting up and performing in the open mike alongside some old poetry friends. Gulliver Frenched up the mike in style as always and then it was me, and the final set of the tour.
I have to say my highlight was the happy birthday remix, and being able to honour the memory of Lizzie in a way that Lizzie would have appreciated. Thanks to all who joined in so enthusiastically.
Somehow I managed to stay up till 2.30ish, and then sleep, sleep, sleep.
The final total of money raised on the night was £374, so after a day of hobbling around the house like an old man I went into Reading and had the pleasure of visiting Launchpad and No5 to drop off their money, and some cake.
Alyson from No5 and me
I’ve never visited Launchpad before so it was nice to have a tour and see the scale of their brilliant operation and the breadth of the work they do. Then onwards to No5. I stepped inside and felt the memories of all the years I spent there with Lizzie come flooding back. They’ve had some tricky times with funding drying up, so it’s great to see them still doing a huge amount of good work, and looking onwards to the future.
I’m nearly done on the blog, a couple of posts still to tidy things up, and then it’ll be going into retirement! Much like my knees.