Thursday, 28 January 2010

And lo, he came unto t'stable, n'est pas?

So, this might be a slightly odd one to use as my first ever travel blog, but bear with me.

Picture the scene - Christmas day afternoon, a remote farm in Yorkshire, already dark, absolutely freezing outside, way below zero, snow thick on the ground. The Hide family slumped, post-Queen's speech, on the sofa, full of turkey and sprouts and Christmas pudding.

Then there's a knock at the door.

No one ever knocks at our door. As I said, the farm is very remote.

We open the door and there is a somewhat dishevelled gent, in his 50s, all in black, obviously very cold and with limited English, clutching a bicycle that is in considerably better shape than he is.

To cut a long story short, I find out with my schoolboy French that this is Bruno, from Normandy, who has been riding his bike around the north of England and Scotland in perhaps one of the worst winters for the last 30 years, asking folks along the way if he can stay in their garage/green house/barn/stable/lean to. He was heading back to Portsmouth (and then onto a ferry) via Lincolnshire and Kings Lynn - not the most direct of routes.

Why? Not really sure. Never did quite figure it out, but he seemed to be a gypsy, and camped in one of our stables where we brought him a hot-water bottle, some turkey sandwiches, mince pies and coffee.

He said he didn't really like the English because they are mechant (mean) and "afraid of bandits", but he did like the food, which isn't something you hear from the French very often.

It might have been the extreme cold but I think Bruno wasn't quite the full shilling.

But I mention all this, because I admired his sense of freedom and optimism and the fact that in our overly-organised world where you can get a guide book for pretty much everywhere on the planet, a sat nav signal up the Amazon, and an i-phone app for restaurants from Spitsbergen to Santiago and every hamlet in between, it was rather refreshing he was just cycling from day to day, unplanned and seeing what the next stop would bring. I can't remember the last time I went on holiday without having it organised down to the Nth degree. Maybe we should all just go with the flow a bit more on our travels. So what if we miss that connection. Hey, stay another night, so what.

I hope he made it back to Normandy safely. Bon voyage Bruno!