The scope for misunderstanding and acrimonious squabbling on this strange trip was vast. A pair of eccentrics and a depressive-Aspergic-artist cheek by jowl in a camper van for a month in the rain; throw Sat-Nav and the fact that I’m cycling upwards of 80 miles a day in to the mix and the potential must surely be explosive. That we only seriously lost each other the once is a miracle on a par with anything Jesus knocked up to entertain his mates. There occurred a series of coincidences so bizarre as to be almost unbelievable: at the end of each day, in the middle of Holland or Germany or Austria we bumped into each other by accident! Yes we did!
Each morning we would tell each other where we were going to be at the end of the day but of course we none of us believed each other. We would then make every effort to avoid going to the place we had nominated and yet – and yet, at the end of each day we would catch site of each other across a crowded Aldi car park or bump into each other at a roadside café.
The truth is of course that there was a good deal of misunderstanding: I couldn’t understand why Phil would say “We’ll meet you at the car park next to the supermarket on the main A8 Passau road out of Vilshofen when my perception was that of a cyclist – Main roads, supermarkets and car parks were things to avoid and certainly not meeting places. Phil on the other hand couldn’t understand that I’d be keen to meet at the most obvious landmark in view – usually a church or Dom in the centre of a village, town or city. Surely, my thinking went, this would be ideal – the likelihood is that the cycle path will pass close by and I can ride right up to the gaff. I can shower and change in Myfanwy and we will be surrounded with everything we need: cafés, bars, shops etc. Perfect!
Phil’s reluctance to accede to this view, a complete mystery to me at the time, was probably based on the fact that a) he would have to drive into a town/city centre, b) he would have to find somewhere to park and c) the road he had nominated headed in the direction of that night’s campsite.
So, at the end of each day, and sometimes at lunchtime too, there was often a period of tight lipped, eye avoiding silence which in my case was meant to convey: “Phil, though I understand your problems (I didn’t), at the end of a long day’s cycling I’d rather not have to cycle beyond what has, in my mind, become the destination; i.e. that effing great spire!
And there is the problem: once I have it in my mind that a certain place is the day’s finishing point it is very difficult for me to go beyond it; not because of any physical restriction but rather, an inflexibility of thought process. It affects everyday ‘normal’ life every bit as much, causing anxiety when there are unforeseen changes to plans or routines; an Aspergic trait which I’m aware is a part of my makeup but at the same time am reluctant to admit is immutable.