I rode into my small village in the East Midlands, one thousand two hundred and twenty-two days after cycling out of it, whooping with the recognition of every stick and stone, following Tenny on her bicycle past the park gates, round the tight bend which it was always so easy to overshoot, down the leafy hill on which my brother went over the handlebars of his BMX aged 8, past the first houses and the springwater trickling from the wall and the dingy old pub I never went to and round the bend to the third house on the left, which a long time ago I used to call home.
French Flanders had an entirely different feel to the still-summery Provence, where we’d left the Mediterranean grape harvest in full swing. The suburbs of Lille, with their steep-roofed red-brick houses and street-facing gardens littered with the orange and brown leaves of autumn, felt distinctly British in comparison.
The last three weeks have been a medley of the memorable and the mundane in the south of France. I’ve found little time or opportunity to write about it, however; cheap internet cafés are practically non-existent here in Western Europe. Everyone has their own computer here , so it’s no surprise, but it’s something I’ve sorely missed.
It’s coming. The end of the road. One more border, one more ferry crossing. And it will be finished.
I’m incredibly excited on one hand; terrified on the other. What will it mean? What happens next? Is it really the end of anything?
Easy to philosophise away, this kind of thing. Another young Westerner returns to the society he left so selfishly to find something better, discovers that nothing much has changed. This will just be another stop on life’s journey, right?
I’d worked hard to fund the ride home. Never before while on the road had I felt sufficiently flush as to splash out on a fresh delicious pizza, or a mouth-wateringly flavoursome ice-cream, or a expertly-prepared cappucino on an almost-daily basis!