By the time I post this we should be in Kings Lynn in Norfolk which brings to mind one of the many times in my life that I have failed at something. The particular failure I am thinking of is very significant right now because Kings Lynn is where I aborted my first attempt to cycle around the coast of Britain. I set off on the first of April thirty or so years ago and only managed about 300 miles before giving up and getting on a train up to Lancashire. I blamed a painful knee condition at the time but as I got older and wiser I realised that the knee was really just an excuse. The truth was that I was lonely. I probably should never have attempted it on my own because just a couple of years earlier I had also abandoned another solo adventure. That time I had planned to walk the length of Wales but again I had got lonely and fed up on my own and came home after three days. It might appear that both of these trips were examples of failures but that isn’t true of the second one. The first one was a failure because I didn’t learn from it which is why I set off on the solo ride around Britain. The second was anything but a failure because it taught me a valuable lesson that I have never forgotten. That is, I’m not that keen on travelling alone so it’s probably best avoided. And therein lies the inadequacy of that word failure. It carries with it nothing but negativity and it is so often misused.
I actually learned two things from that aborted cycle trip. The first was that I wasn’t really suited to travelling on my own but the second and much more important discovery was that it is OK to fail in anything so long as you learn from the experience. Or, as someone once said; you should never make the same mistake twice because there are so many to choose from.
It is thanks to those early learning experiences that I can happily sit in this hotel bedroom having abandoned our plans to camp today. Not camping when the rain is relentless and we are wet through all the way to our skin has nothing to do with failure and everything to do with having learned from past mistakes.
Of course it’s great to have the benefit of hindsight and experience but then again ignorance is sometimes bliss. We have just met another tourer in the bar downstairs who is four days into his own round Britain tour. Kuldip set off from London with not so much as a packing list of things to take as a shopping list of what he needed to buy on the journey. He showed us today’s purchases which included a new waterproof jacket, overshoes, a light, a water carrier and goodness knows what else. His complete lack of planning and happy go lucky outlook was a breath of fresh air. We left him preparing to ride for another three hours before it got dark and in the pouring rain too. Two hours later when we went down for dinner he was still there. Still smiling broadly and still preparing to leave. He eventually headed for a nearby campsite in his brand new waterproof to pitch his four day old tent and unwrap his other new purchases. I really hope such a happy and positive person turns out to be a quick learner too. Good luck Kuldip, I hope you enjoy your shopping trip around Britain.
We met another interesting character this morning. As we got ready to leave the hotel I had my bike propped up outside and as I oiled the chain I became aware of a disembodied voice telling me to go away. I traced it to a very rude old man sitting on the other side of an open window. He claimed I was spoiling his view. I asked him if he meant the view of the building on the other side of the street but he simply told me to go away again. I told him to stop being ridiculous and continued with our essential maintenance. At this point the manageress of the hotel came out, apologised profusely but asked me to move. It turns out that the former squadron leader has lived in the hotel for the past three years and is plainly a few cards short of a full deck. I waited expectantly for Basil Fawlty to appear to complete the scene but sadly I was disappointed and reluctantly moved the bike to keep the peace. I did consider going back into the hotel to present the miserable old fart with one of our contact cards so that he would be able to read this blog but Gill talked me out of it. I have no doubt that he learned all sorts of valuable life skills during his heroic time in the RAF, it’s just a shame that tolerance or good basic manners weren’t amongst them.
It is now twenty four hours since I started writing this and Kings Lynn is behind us. I am re-tracing my steps along the Norfolk coast. A bit wiser, a lot older and in far better company than thirty years ago and unlike thirty years ago I am enjoying it enormously.
Random pictures from the last few days.