Talks and travels
Day Four of the LEJOG book tour
Last night I gave a talk at The Curator Cafe, Totnes. It was the third talk on my Land’s End to John o’ Groats book tour, having started the tour at Bike Chain Bissoe near Truro, and spoken at Rockets and Rascals in Plymouth the previous night. This was my best event so far: Totnes is a vibrant town, full of green-minded people, and I managed to draw a crowd despite it all being a bit last minute (I only confirmed the venue two weeks ago). The crowd were friendly and attentive, and the cafe were fabulous hosts, putting on a special menu and providing wine and the great coffee they are famous for.
Ordinarily I show a slideshow of pictures and structure my talk around that. But at this venue, there was no projection equipment, so all I could rely on was me. Gulp.
And it turned out to be great. It was nice to be able to expand on a story if I felt the crowd were responding to it, and I could skim over parts that turned out to not be particularly interesting. I read three passages from my book, from three contrasting sections of the ride, and I really enjoyed sharing my written word as well as interpreting it through my spoken word. I sold a good number of books, but most of all people enjoyed the talk and told me how it had inspired them to be more active on their bikes and in exploring Britain – the very reason I wrote the book and decided to take it on tour in the first place.
Even though this is a book tour, I’m trying hard not to make the ride just about the talks. I am, of course, cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats; a significant ride in itself, without the added factor of presenting the book. The tour itinerary must go on (if anything were to go wrong with the bike, I would get on the train), but I need to make sure I enjoy the ride as well. It’s a lesson I’ve struggled to learn in the past, to focus on the journey rather than just the destination, and it’s one that I still struggle with. On the round-Britain trip, I had pre-planned my accommodation each night so had my destination in mind with each pedal, and when the riding was particularly tough I could think of nothing else. I am in danger of letting that happen on this trip, too – even more so, as I MUST get to my destination by a certain time each day for the event to go ahead.
The ride today (Plymouth to Totnes) was short, and I chose the A road rather than the hillier but quieter side roads. I am not nearly as fit as I was last time I cycled here, and the hills of the past two days have been a massive struggle, especially with a box of books in tow! So I compromised scenery for ease of travel, which meant that the cycling was almost solely a means to an end and was a real drag. It wasn’t until I reached Ivybridge (a quaint village around the river Erme) and stopped for tea that I made a conscious effort to stop pounding the pedals, take a look around, and enjoy the ride. I started saying hello to things (roadside streams, trees, pretty brick houses, sheep), and looking at the surrounding landscape (happy that I wasn’t climbing those hills but could still have a good view of them), and talking out loud to myself about where I was, and sure enough, the remaining miles flew by and I found myself in Dartington then Totnes before I knew it, having really enjoyed the last section.
I have already cycled through some stunning landscapes and there will be more to come, and many places that I pass through will be unfamiliar to me; though an expert on the coast, I haven’t done much cycling up the middle. So, my aim is to not worry about the venue, the audience, the talk, and the books while I’m riding… and just enjoy the cycling for what it is.