The end time is here. I’m home. After 164 days, 4,500km of cycling and plenty of ascending my time is up. To stop my return becoming an apocalypse here are some things to remember.
I can’t eat like an animal anymore. It turns out the whole knife, fork, lips sealed, keep your feet off the table is a bourgeois lie. A lie aimed to distinguish the masses from eatery elites. Free from this culinary class struggle I’ve been stuffing my face using my fingers for months. It is pure liberty to pour a curry over rice then finger shovel sticky rice between your lips, lips which no longer seal shut like a zip lock bag, to allow you to simply enjoy the sheer sumptuousness of the sloppy mess in front of you.
Some people go to religious ceremonies to be reborn, but I’m here to tell you of a path to freedom: for your next meal, scrap the knife and fork and dive in with your fingers. At first it feels weird, sticky rice up your hand but, hey, skin washes clean, and as you only use your right hand, you’ve still got a clean left to aimlessly browse Instagram, which you can do with extra gusto as you focus less on your gastronomic behaviour. With every sticky finger shovel, the bourgeois bars will slowly melt away, turning any feeding into one full of animalistic rejoice. However, to avoid a mass panic in public eateries and rejection on all first dates I will have to shut my mouth, take my time and no longer dive in fingers first.
Generosity is a great gift. So many people helped, welcomed us with a friendly wave or invited us in for a cup of tea. As a stranger in strange lands it doesn’t take much for these moments to cheer you up and make your day. At home I’m often approached by puzzled tourists and always take my time to help but I’m now going to take this up a level. When I see the hordes of tourists piling off the coach, camera in hand, they will all get an enthusiastic ‘hello, welcome to London!’, if someone asks for directions I will offer to take them. Whether I start inviting people in for tea I will have to wait and see. Mainly on the count we don’t have many mugs at home.
I need to learn English again. Most of my interactions in the past six months have turned into a game of charades. An (attempted) approach of speaking slowly, saying multiple connected nouns and simple verbs all supported by hand signals e.g. sleep, hotel, bed, guest house all while tilting your head to lay them down on your prayer hands, proved fairly effective but I might be viewed strangely at home (unfortunately I have just missed the annual Christmas charades tournaments). I also think I’ve picked up the Indian head wobble and ‘cast a spell’ hand motion to signal absolutely anything I desire. I don’t think this will get me far, except at my next Harry Potter fancy dress party.
Hammer rock smasher. Molten tar hand spreader. Building rubble head balancer. Mountain goat hay bale carrier. Job titles you could give to the tasks I have seen people doing; titles representing the physicality of people’s lives who are trapped in the puzzle of heavy manual labour present in developing countries. My own job, ‘cycle tourer’, was also physical, but undeniably a pursuit of leisure rather than one of existence. To see the physicality of people’s lives was always a brutal reminder of the leisurely, sedentary life at home but as the days of cycling went by I was surprised at how natural the adaption to physicality comes: you eat more, your body changes, you sleep better, repetitive actions become meditative, large distances become mentally smaller and physically easier. This rhythm of enduring daily long rides creates a routine beat that drums a feeling of life into daily chores and routines. Back to my reality, where the manual labour escape room has been solved, I’m not convinced the prize should have been a such a sedentary life. How I adapt back to a slower rhythm, I’m not sure.
I’m no longer a celebrity. I’ve got use to people approaching me on the street all the time, a few questions, handshakes, meeting and greeting children, posing for photos. A true celebrity lifestyle. I’ll be back to being a nobody, a regular john, a normal Nancy, just another brick in the wall! I will study Dean Gaffney to workout how to survive a life after fame.
So that’s all folks. An apocalypse of food, language, generosity, physicality and fame is waiting. Not quite fireballs and scorched earth, but Jesus never cycled toured.