Thursday, 7 October 2010
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
I can only speak for myself here, but there is no denying that Song-Cycling has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I never dreamt that what merely started as a quirky concept could become such a hugely successful project. The fact that we've raised £23,000 for two wonderful charities, with money still pouring in, and cycled nearly 800 miles across the most beautiful landscapes of my Motherland, performing beautiful music to people of all ages and from all walks of life, instils in me the deepest thrill and personal reward.
Charity work of this sort feeds and nourishes the heart and soul in the most deep and meaningful way. It has made me all the more hungry to Song-Cycle my way along other roads in other villages, towns, cities, counties and countries, across mountains, meadows, pastures and bridges, through valleys, crevises and tunnels, and all the time meeting new people to love and cherish...
Dear Alice, for now it maybe that 'Ye'll take the high road, and I'll take the low road', but I've no doubt we'll meet again on Song Cycling II, whether it takes us to Loch Lomond or not... What do you think?
And for my dear friend Becky: Bex, I wore the pendant you gave me of St Christopher from the first pedal to the last and I carried you in my heart all the way. Together, at least we can endeavour to fight this horrible disease of Multiple Sclerosis. I love you, Bex.
To finish, the sentiment behind the pendant of St Christopher:
'In your long life ahead, you'll travel many roads and watch the sun rise and set in many countries. Wear this St Christopher pendant to protect you on all these journeys and remind you that there's a wonderful world out there, ready for exploring. Happy travels.'
After warning us about police being out and about in the Highlands with speed guns (I could only imagine myself huffing and puffing my way at -5 miles an hour up sheer precipices!), Steve waved us on our way and we braced ourselves for a windy and wet cycle to Fort William. In fact, I was quite grateful for the turbulent weather conditions - we really did get to see this part of the world in sunshine, wind, fog, and rain and every element painted it in a dramatically beautiful way. I remember one point when Alice and I were cycling through a heavy downpour when suddenly, half a mile ahead, a golden glow rose from the ground as the sun found its way through. It was simply awesome.
We arrived at Fort William in time for lunch. The wonderful Jenifer and Martin Roddy, all the way from Harpenden, were there to greet us in to the town and we set about finding a suitable pub to have a small tipple to celebrate our completion of this epic journey. Indeed, so proud we were of our efforts, we had no shame in instigating a postprandial march down Fort William high street waving our banners in glee and promoting our final concert of the tour.
Killmallie Hall in Corpach did not make the most glamourous of venues for our final hurrah, but it was filled with such warmth and generosity of spirit, that it really didn't matter. Margaret, our kind hostess for the evening and professional musician herself, had warned us that the pianos in Fort William and surrounding villages only get tuned once or maybe twice a year, and so I was not expecting a top-of-the-range instrument with which to bow out. However, the piano that had been moved to the hall for the evening served its purpose well and Alice and I enjoyed this final recital very much. What a supportive audience too! Special thanks must go to Catherine for all her efforts in making this such a successful evening.
With a final £280 or so into the pot, it felt like we had come full 'song-circle' since our first concert in Wells over two weeks ago. Wow, how so much tarmac had passed under our tyres in the days in between!
Saturday, 17 July 2010
The first is the surprise at vaguely sado-masochistic pleasure I seem to get from cycling through strong wind and torrential rain. Susie and I have those cute little waterproof over-shoes which keep our feet nice and dry and this is quite satisfying. A sort of mini triumph of good over evil elements.
Mum's words from a few days ago also fuelled me with plenty of giggles to keep battling through the elements. We had (all 4 of us) stopped on a B road that ran alongside the A7 on the way to Edinburgh and had a little lie down in a sheep field. As we were setting off to go mum was ferreting around in the boot for I don't know what and popped her head out to cheerily suggest we take some porridge with us for the rest of the day's mileage. Now, Susie & I simply couldn't work out where we'd get the hot milk or water from to make this a worthwhile endeavour. Ah mama. I love you. I'm sure you'll explain it to us one day.
My nice red concert dress I discovered only a few glasses of wine after the concert last night has a gaping seam over my bum. Maybe that's the real reason why people wanted a few more turns and encores! Must get that repaired. Mused on the road today over whether or not those handy self-adhesive puncture repair patches might do the job in time for tomorrow's concert in Fort William.
Despite a puncture on Stanley's front tyre with only 5 miles to go until our destination (and actually Alice and I were quite happy to put our puncture repair kit to good use - we didn't buy it for nothing!), we made it to Banald Farmhouse with plenty of time to relax before our concert.
Kate and John Coaton were our hosts for the evening and 'host with the most' they certainly were. We had tea, cake and sandwiches on arrival and the hospitality continued in this generous way all the way through our stay. Again (and apologies if I begin to sound like a broken record), the kindness of everyone we have encountered on this trip is staggering to us.
We performed in The Coaton's beautiful living room in the evening. I was blessed with a fantastic Yamaha Grand to play on and the salon feel was perfect for this, our 9th Song-Cycling recital of the tour. The room was packed with 60 generous and warm locals (including the lovely Mike and Fiona from our stay in Caputh) who seemed to relish what we had on offer and Alice and I were thrilled that this special event raised another £1000. Heartfelt thanks must go to Kate and John for engineering such a successful evening.
Now, onwards to the Bridge of Orchy. It's difficult to believe that this trip is fast coming to an end...