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One man, one bike?

This tour was billed as being one man’s epic/silly challenge, but in reality, it wouldn’t have been possible for me to do this without the help of a huge number of people. I was just the pointy (and rather sweaty) tip of a very big arrow.

So, a gigantic THANK YOU to the following people. If I happen to miss you out, consider it down to my tiredness, and inability to remember names (particularly of all the awesome open mikers,  rather than lack of gratitude!

General

Mum, Dad and Liz for all the love, support, and tireless promoting. All of my friends for all the spreading of the word, generous donating,  support, putting up with the endless facebook messages and hearing me talk about nothing else for the last three months – at least. Pete Hunter from Apples and Snakes for providing some initial advice and an all important list of contacts. Allie and Robin for the big box of bike clothing – you made my journey a whole lot more comfortable than it might otherwise have been! Ali for the waterproof trousers, Lindsey for the overshoes and care package of sweets that greeted my arrival home!

Southampton

Jani and Bik and all at the Art House for all their help, providing such a lovely venue and allowing me to start my adventure at home. Matt West for doing a grand job of hosting and promoting the evening. Stewart Taylor and Ricky Tart for doing such a great job in supporting me and all who took part in the open mike, and expressed such concern for the state of my testicles. Rob Casey, I’m looking at you. Hannah for manning the door and collecting the money and All who turned up and donated, helping us to raise £140 for No Limits. The Tart family for hosting me for the night, feeding me and sending me safely on my way – then chasing after me with the dayglow tabbard I’d forgotten. Last and not least, thanks to Jane the astoundingly brilliant sound engineer!

 Bristol

Thanks to Stef Mo for being a great source of advice on all things poetry related in Bristol, his support and promotion in the weeks leading up to the gig and doing a great set on the night. Rebbecca Tantony for stepping in at the last minute and doing such a great job of hosting the evening, Jenn Hart for all her help, and offer of a bed and food, even if that didn’t work out in the end! Thanks to all the Open Mikers for being so intimidatingly good. Alix Thorpe for being an absolute star, coming to my rescue when I was suddenly stranded and stopping me from getting too stressed! Thanks to Duncan for the offer of the angle grinder that was thankfully not needed! Andy and all at The Arts House Bristol for providing such a great venue and the astonishingly good cheesecake that was about the only thing that got me through the evening! All who came along, and helped us raise £150 for Womankind Bristol.

Oxford

A massive thanks to Tina Sederholm for all the hard work of organising the Oxford gig, and who was one of the first people to reply to my request for help. Her positivity helped me to start believing this tour might actually be possible. Neil Spokes, Kate Walton and Lucy Ayrton and all the open mikers for strutting their awesome poetry stuff. Dennis from the Albion Beatnik Bookstore for providing such a lovely venue for free and all the cups of tea. Marie for the bed for the night, lovely food and yummy leftovers for lunch the next day. Carole and Alfie for coming to the gig twice (sorry), and all who packed out the venue and helped us raise £193.09 for SeeSaw – fantastic effort everyone.

Birmingham

Beth and all and the Urban Coffee Company for the venue and some poetry contacts in the area, All at BeatFreeks, especially Alisha Kadir for all the advice, promotion, finding me my PA system, my hosts and performers! Jasmine Gardosi for the poems and stepping up to host the night at the last minute, Lorna Meehan again for the fab poems. Tom, the best dressed poet in Birmingham (some would say the world) and Jess (who I pestered into performing) for being fab open mikers. The lovely receptionist at Travelodge, who tried her best, bless her.  All who came along and generously helped us raise £80 for Open Door Youth Counselling.

 Manchester

Jack Dixon and Stephen Quinlan and all the open mikers were brilliant. All at the Three Minute Theatre, what a lovely place and lovely people (and other animals). Matt at the service station in Macclesfield for giving me such a warm welcome to the North, and who really set the tone for the rest of my stay. Big up Kieren King and Ella Gainsborough, who went way beyond the call of duty, not only hosting and organising the event (having only just moved into their new home) but looking after me from the very second I arrived at the venue (I’d not even got off my bike), feeding me, watering me, housing me and generously donating not only book sales on the night, but proceeds from their previous gig to the charity. It’s largely thanks to them, alongside the generosity of all who turned up, that we raised £115 for MASCS.

Nottingham

Big thanks to all of the Mouthy Poets for letting me take part in their wonderful show, what a talented bunch. It was an honour to share the stage with you all and you made me feel very welcome. Not to mention the food! Wish I could have stayed for Saturday, I’m sure you smashed it. The Djanogly City Academy for the amazing venue, I’ve never performed in such an impressive space before, with such a large audience! Special thanks for Debris Stevenson, for making it all happen, Hayley for the intro and work with Harmless, and Charlotte and Alasdair for hosting me and looking after me so well. Thanks to everyone who donated, helping us raise £115.19 for Harmless.

Cambridge

Gigantic thanks to Fay Roberts who pulled a Cambridge shaped gig out of the hat at the last minute, fulfilling my 10 gigs in 10 days and making my inner OCD demon very happy. Malgo and John and all at the lovely Espresso Library for letting us stage a poetry take over. Abi Palmer, Leanne Moden, Tim Knight, Emma Ormond and Daisy Thurston-Gent for performing, sorry for the ones I missed/disrupted with my late arrival! Paula and Mark, Katie and Neil for looking after me in my tired state and force feeding me food. John and Hema, Zoe and Ava for giving me access to the Linsey wing and further topping up my carb levels to the MAX. Thanks to all who donated, together we raised £108.80 for Centre 33

 London

Thanks to The Oxford, for the venue, and their admin error(s) that meant I didn’t have to pay the deposit – result. Huge thanks to the bar staff who sorted out the chaos on the night, especially Selotape Man and the dude who got a microphone delivered by taxi! Sorry I can’t remember your name! Amy Mcallister and Rob Auton’s words really made the night as did All the open mikers. Steve Pottinger did a fantastic job of hosting (and not rubbing in England’s defeat), was a stalwart promoter of my tour on the twittersphere and beyond, and was a great source of encouragement from day one. Vybra from CCIWBS for helping to promote and her help on the night, Peter Cat for the intitial contacts. Luke and Katie Collier who lent me their flat for the night. All at London Fields Cycles for repairing my gears in record time and all who turned out (and some who didn’t) who helped us raise £290 for the Bereavement Service. Great job everyone!

Brighton

Huge thanks to Louie Syred who put his hand up all those months ago at a random open mike in Brighton and said “I’ll help with that.” and then proceeded to organise the lot, host and smashed it on the night. Natasha  Moskovici for her sublime, sexy words (and tits), and coming down from London for the night. Djembe Man for the drums in support, the  awesome guitar skills of the man who played guitar all the amazing open mikers. All at the Blue Man for providing the lovely venue, Persephone Pearl and family for the bed and breakfast! Bambi Pom for forcing the encore! All who packed out the place, donated and raised £140 for The Clock Tower Sanctuary.

Reading

Will and all at The Global Cafe for being my poetry home, letting us take over the night and giving us a cut from the bar. Tutu for the Dave Allen Special. Gulliver for helping to organise, doing a grand job of hosting the night and being the catalyst behind all this poetry nonsense I seem to have got involved with. Becci Louise for starting off the evening so well, all the open mike performers, particularly those from Launchpad. Everyone who came, especially those who came so far! All who put so much effort into singing the happy birthday remix -probably my highlight of the tour. Lizzie’s family and friends for supporting my crazy endeavour. Liz for vacating the double bed and making the cake, Mum and Dad for the excellent hotel service. Everyone who donated and helped to raise £374 for Launchpad and No5.

And Finally

A massive THANK YOU to all who’ve donated via Just Giving. At the current count we’re up to £1326, which, combined with the gig totals means we’ve raised £1123 for No5, £577 for Launchpad and in total a stonking £3032 for charities around the country.

Awesome, awesome, awesome everyone.

And Lizzie, thanks for making the waves we surfed.

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Final Days

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!

IMGP0061It 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!

IMGP0067Mum, Dad, Barney, and Liz’s Cake. Lindsey’s sparker also show!

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!

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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.

11021105_10155295928140383_2796750115577332618_nLast set, first beer

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.

11022786_10152587819172827_1472003686_nHarry from Launchpad, me and my bike. I’m sure if he thinks it through, he’ll regret touching my saddle…

No5Alyson 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.

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Gig totals

The tour admin is finally winding down, although the just giving page total is still slowly winding up its total. If you haven’t donated and want to join the party there’s still time! Thanks to all who’ve been so generous so far.

badge9The one thing that is now set in stone is the amount we raised from all the gigs around the country. And here are the details:

Southampton. No Limits: £140

Bristol. Womankind: £150

Oxford. Seesaw: £193.09

Birmingham. Open Door: £80

Manchester. MASCS: £115

Nottingham. Harmless: £115.19

Cambridge. Centre 33: £108.80

London. CCIW Bereavement Counselling: £290

Brighton. Clock Tower Sanctuary: £140

Reading: No5 and Launchpad: £374

Which means that across the country we’ve raised £1706.08 using the power of poetry! I’m really, really chuffed with that.

And that doesn’t include the JustGiving total – more info on that soon…

Lizzie Lee

It’s the afternoon after the end of the tour, but there’ll be time for more updates on that later. For now I’d like to talk about the person who inspired this whole thing. Lizzie Lee.

Yesterday would have been her 45th birthday. Today, sadly is the first anniversary of her passing away. My thoughts go out to all her family and friends, some of whom I’ve had the absolute pleasure of meeting along my journey. If any of you want to meet up anytime and say cunt a lot I’d be delighted.

I first met Lizzie when I began volunteering at No5 Youth Counselling in Reading. Lizzie hadn’t long begun volunteering as a counsellor there. I began as the receptionist on the Wednesday night rota, welcoming clients and answering the phones. As I began my counselling training and then headed towards seeing my first clients Lizzie and the rest of the team were a constant source of support, and filthy banter.

One of the things I remember the most about Lizzie when she was counselling was how she was constantly thinking she wasn’t good enough, that she should do/could’ve done better. I don’t think she ever saw herself the way we did, as a brilliant counsellor and friend.

As well as remaining a counsellor long after I, and the rest of the original Wednesday night rota left, Lizzie progressed to being on the exec committee at No5, helping to guide it though some difficult times, and putting a lot of time, effort and personal stress into this brilliant little charity.

She also used to work as a lab technician at RSSL, the research laboratory owned by Cadbury. It was just over the road from my own lab at Reading Uni, and I’d often pass her and wave to her on her way to work, always clomping along in her big boots. We used to share stories of lab based misdemeanors. I know that ‘Lipids Lizzie’ is greatly missed by her colleagues at RSSL.

She also did a huge amount of fundraising for Launchpad, a charity that was very close to her heart. Every year she would take part in their big sleep out event, and raised thousands for them over the years. I know they hugely appreciated all of her efforts over the years.

As I mentioned last night, I got asked why I chose the charities I did, rather than perhaps a cancer charity. My answer is that I wanted to do something that might really make a difference to small charities that are desperate for the money, rather than being a drop in the ocean for a larger charity. But mostly, I chose Launchpad, No5 and all the other charities around the country because I wanted to help continue the work she did while she was alive. Lizzie was a big rock, chucked into a pond, and the ripples of all her hard work helped make a lot of other people’s lives better in times of need. All I hope is this little pebble of a tour can help spread those ripples a little bit further.

There’ll be people in Southampton, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Cambridge, London, Brighton and Reading who will have never met or heard of Lizzie, but because of her inspiration, maybe they’ll get just that little bit of help they need.

I think Lizzie would be chuffed, but deeply uncomfortable with all this attention.

Lizzie-LeeLizzie recieving an award for her charitable efforts.

Lizzie mate, I miss you, and my life was immeasurably richer for having met you. I’m really proud to have been your friend. x

You’re still a cunt though.

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Heading home

Had a wonderful send off from the ‘away’ part of my tour last night in Brighton. Thanks for everyone involved, a great venue, great crowd, brilliant open mikers, Syred and Natasha were fab, and I was pretty good too! 😉

Gigantic thanks to Louie for all the organising and promoting, you really made the night work.

So now, after my bowl of Porridge….

Reading, I’ll see you soon, Dave is (insert chorus from a popular mid nineties football anthem – and no, I don’t mean Vindaloo)

x

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Oh I do like to be…

After my late night last night, it was sadly another disturbed sleep and early morning (6.30). I had to fix the puncture in my now spare inner tube, do all the usual stuffing of my face and get down to the bike shop for 8am when it opened.

Thanks to the lovely folks at the London Fields bike shop, I was in and out before you can say “Please Sir, sort out my bike cos it’s proper buggered.”  They were so quick in fact I almost double checked that they had replaced the cable.

So freshly geared I headed out into rush hour central London traffic, what a blast! I loved it. Because I was in no rush whatsoever, I could just enjoy the madness going on around me. Cycling past the Gerkin and other huge buildings in that area was a particular highlight.

IMGP0055Shard

IMGP0054Some bridge thing

Eventually though all the stop start got frustrating, progress was very slow and didn’t get much better as  I hit the quieter roads. A combination of hills (damn Surrey is hilly!), the ever present wind, and my own increasing tiredness all took their toll on my speed, and mood.

I’d run out of Ibuprofen, and my knees have been getting worse over the past few days, the constant grinding into headwind hasn’t been kind.

And then I still had the looming bulk of Dtichling Beacon to face before I could get into Brighton. It’s odd, the road seems to be running directly up the hill until the last moment when it begins to slowly wind it’s way up.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. I didn’t rush (like I had a choice) but just slowly pushed my way up, pacing myself all the way.

Once up the top the view, and the wind were breathtaking, and I had a very smug and relieved grin on my face!

IMGP0056View from the top

So now I’m in Brighton, sat in the venue for tonight, The Blue Man cafe/bar which is beautiful. I can’t wait to perform, I think we’re going to have a good night.

Before I go, a massive thanks to all involved last night, and here’s the obligatory selfie with my hosts, trouble is, they weren’t there, so I had to improvise:

IMGP0052Me looking particularly good this morning, with Katie and Luke.

I’ve just seen the total raised on Just giving has shot up over £1000! Woop! Well done all! Join the fun below if you’ve not yet! 🙂

I nearly forgot STATS! Yesterday was 67 miles in total, and it’s the same for today. Both of which were slow days, about 10.5 mph average. Rubbish! I’ll be well over the 700 mile marker by the time I’m done tomorrow.

It’s looking like we’ve packed out the cafe for tomorrow night, 40 people have booked seats for food beforehand, which means we’ll probably be performing at the front of the cafe. It’s a good to talk takeover.

So, last gig and last sleep before home. I’m not looking forward to the ride in (HEADWIND!) but I’m sure I’ll be grinning all the way.

That’s tomorrow though, for tonight, bring on Brighton!

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Gremlins…

Hello, so it’s 20 past midnight, I should be asleep but I’m a bit wired. A great night was had in London, supporting the Bereavement Service. We got a good turn out, hopefully we’ve raised a lotta money, and the poetry from the open mikers was fab. The feature acts Amy and Rob were every bit as awesome as I hoped they’d be, and thanks to Steve for some quality hosting.

But gremins…

After my very chilled out post earlier (and my bath) I got ready to go out, just as the storm rolled in and thunder cracked over london.

Ominous signs you might think.

So I got my waterproofs on, got downstairs with my bike, cycled off and realised I had a puncture. Bugger. Despite my best efforts I rode through a lot of broken glass yesterday so I’m not surprised.

Good job I had my spare inner tube with me! (And I’ve just realised I still need to repair the original inner tube)

20 mins or less later I was ready to roll. Albeit with a less pumped up tire than I would like, there’s no way I can fully inflate my tyre with my lil pump. But it’s good enough for now.

I get to the venue and discover the bar staff have no idea the event is taking place, and that the room isn’t ready and the PA system isn’t set up. Grrrrr! Stress! Not surprising either considering my dealings with the venue in the run up.

Anyway, we sort that, start a little later than planned but the staff members on duty did a grand job of looking after us.

Good gig, as mentioned above.

Decide to stay for a drink with friends afterward, chat until we’re kicked out. I need a piss but decide to wait until I get back to the flat.

I mentioned in a previous post that my gear change was getting a little shonky. Well, I should have read the signs more clearly. I thought it was just needing adjustment, but changing down gears as I approached a set of lights – it didn’t change down gears.

Fuck.

I think, without further investigation, that I’ve snapped the gear cable, the shonkiness of the gear change was probably a sign of it fraying.

So, I still have the front gears I can change but I’m stuck in a high gear at the back. This means I either need to get it repaired in the morning, or I’m cycling to Brighton with only 3 gears, with two of those being decidedly high for anything other than high speed – and there are a lot of hills between here and Brighton. I don’t think the latter is particularly feasable, but I’d give it a go if I had to.

No, getting the train is not an option, but thanks for the suggestion!

I’ve found a bike shop a couple of miles away that opens at 8. I’ll take it in and talk nicely to them to see if they can repair it for me there and then, then head off for Brighton a little later than planned.

Now, remember me saying I needed a piss when I left the pub?

I was absolutely desperate by the time I got back to the flat. I pushed my bike up the stairs, then into the lift – doing a little dance of clenching desperation – got up to the right floor and…

The door to the corridoor was locked where it wasn’t before, and I didn’t have the code!!

Absolutely desperate now I tried to phone my friend, but no answer.

I had to run downstairs, go outside, do a shameful (and absolutely on the ragged edge of pissing myself) wee in the first dark corner I could find then figure out what to do. It was approaching midnight, so I didn’t want to phone my friend’s neighbours but I had no choice. Thankfully she was lovely and gave me the code with no complaints.

Phew, so that was my night. How was yours?

So yeah, I’ve got to hope I can get my bike fixed in the morning otherwise I’m going nowhere.

It wouldn’t be fun if it was easy though right?

Good night!

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