Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Day 4: To Northumberlandia

12:49 am and day 3 had creeped into day 4. I was laying in the swallow barn in a barn, eating Hula Hoops and trying to read my copy of The Cruel Sea I'd lugged 306 miles up the country. My mind dotted around conversations and thoughts from that evening with Amanda B to the pondering that I'd indulged in as I rode. If anything I've come away more confused than ever. There appears to very few certainties in the realm of adoption with nuance and questions in direct opposition to dogma and historic practice. 

We slept late and took a lift to the nearest bike shop after I've fixed yet another puncture.

After a quick fix we headed off into the rain. In all my days cycling I've never been so cold with the wet. Zippy weeped with joy as his rear mech unravelled, stood under a bush I pushed my skills to the limit while he ate yet another snickers and giggled. 
23 miles later we drew up to my old friend's, D & D. As adopters of 15 children they are legends and caught Mrs C & I when we fell. Top draw people. 
True to form they fed us and dried out our clothes, two hours later we set off on the last leg wrapped in plastic bags, classy.
The last leg through the industrial landscape of County Durham and Tyneside was in stark contrast to the central London landscape we'd set off from. The temperature dropped and we slogged past the iconic northern landscapes.

Then we arrived in the dark, Mrs C a Colour Carwen and Lotty welcomed us an we were relieved.

We said some words, I threw my parliament green mud at her face. Northumberlandia is a thing of beauty but to many who live in her shadow she's a symbol of corruption and greed.

We prayed and then we took our last trip less than a mile to my home. 

Zippy is an awesome companion. Tensing to Hillary, Oates to Scott, Golum to Frodo. I swear if he offers me one more Snicker I shall not be responsible for my actions.  

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Day 3: Into the darkness

Like an over keen puppy Zippy announced that he'd got another puncture over the breakfast table today. So, as he settled in for another round of toast, tea and croissants I toiled on his mobile thorn catcher.
I can confess that the delicate balance of our relationship had deteriorated somewhat and his chirpy attitude had worn very thin.

With hope in our hearts we set off with our eyes on the sky and minds on the hills. The morning flew by and with the wind on out backs. It's impossible to not be cheered at the sight of Zippy ordering a cubic yard of chips then consuming them to the amazement of all bystanders. So I have to confess to feel a slight warming of my frosty attitude.

From York we climbed to the North Yorkshire foot hills where disaster struck on a particular speedy dissent my spoke snapped. Hoping that I wouldn't lose my registration I seconded the local toilets for a makeshift repair shop.

Then onwards and upwards into the blackness we headed for the Open Nest's secret mountain hideaway. A stunning, though nervous ride, through the dark night was the highlight and lowlight of the night.

Then we arrived to an evening of thoughts, chat, and plotting.

98 miles in the hardest of circumstances.

Tomorrow 95 miles on a broke bike. Without battle there is no victory.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Day 2: Wisbech to Retford

In theory this was going to be the 'easy' day but the fates had a different plan. As did Zippy who proactively sought out every thorn he could find in Lincolnshire.

With hope in our hearts, prayers on our lips and thought in our minds we set off.

The cold wind was on our backs but as we slowly headed West we caught the stout 16 mph head/cross wind. 50 miles into a headwind is no fun and the Fens flat landscape had promised an easy ride but in reality it gave us no respite from the wind.

Hours of grind and even Zippy's cheerful disposition dissolved and we drew back to our own inner worlds as we slogged out the miles. If you cycle you know it can be a marvellous place for reflection and I did plenty of that, writing imaginary blog posts that I'll never publish, gnashing my teeth at the injustices.

By the time Zippy was on is third puncture I confess to have become somewhat miffed and this was exacerbated as he napped while I fixed it. If we remain friends it will be a miracle.

One of the thorns

We finally arrived at 7:30pm , totally done in and 100 miles nearer to our destination.
Tomorrow we head for The Open Nest in the mountain top hideaway.


Anyway, must sleep.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Big Ben to Northumberlandia: Day 1 (setting out)

With hope in our hearts and porridge in our bellies we set off before dawn. I had been a little distressed the night before as  I'd snapped a spoke and been unable to true the wheel. So it was all a bit wobbly, physically and emotionally.  Zippy was also concerned so I tried to lighten the mood by announcing that my training had consisted of eating pies and thinking about cycling. He was not impressed nor was his concern eased. I’m slightly worried about Zippy.

We went to Parliament Green and I stole some soil to take back, a symbol, and off we set.

By good fortune we arrived at the door of Condor Cycles at 8am and they kindly had it fixed and had us back on the road by 8:35. They even gave us free energy gels when they heard that we were stupid enough to be attempting to ride to Northumberland.

So onwards. The rest of the day consisted of city, towpath, hills, rather smashing cycling paths in Cambridge and a slog through the Friday night commute in the dark.

Zippy did fall off but I blame that to the 20kg of Snickers that he has in his back pack, it clearly unbalanced him. He was attempting a rather flamboyant 180 aerial manoeuvre that would have made Evil Knievel baulk and he hit the ground like a bag of hammers. Honestly, I could hardly breath as I laughed so hard, I think I may have soiled myself. My social work training is good for something, and I like to think my empathic response was evident as I checked his snicker supply for damage.
Anyway he was fine and he is a splendid companion and in no way am I annoyed at his endless enthusiasm.

108 miles.

Lots of thoughts about the state of the nation, time is something you have when you cycle and my mind is full. 

So far I've a great title for a blog, no content, just a title without any content.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Day 1: The route

Not including the distance from Zippy's pad to Big ben (9miles)
Day 1: It's many things but it's not a gentle start. Zippy claims that this is just a 'warm up' but clearly has has no idea what he's talking about. His capacity for optimism is only matched by his love of Snickers bars and Ale.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Zippy and the Anchor (me) head home.

Seven years this month ago I left work, it's a long story so I'll not bore you with the details in essence we were unraveling, failing and at the time it was doubtful that we were going to be able to keep going. Our LA had contracted Post Adoption Support with an agency that had gone bust and we'd just been through a two year legal battle that we kept losing only to win at the 11th hour.

We were broken.

So,  left work as financial insecurity seemed to be the obvious route to fixing the issue. Then I did the next best thing got on my bike.

I set off one November lunchtime and headed south, each day I stayed with friends old and new adopters and family. Eventually, 10 days later,  I arrived at Parliament having travelled nearly 600 miles as I'd zig zagged across the country on my way. Why did I go, well that's the big question, I think it was desperation. Having seen the outrageous treatment of my daughters by the 'system' I felt I needed to do something and to make a pilgrimage to the seat of all power seemed to be the obvious thing to do. So that's what I did, a kind of pilgrimage, wth the full backing, endorsement and promotion of Mrs C I headed off and prayed for justice. At the time it as a truly miserable experience, I arrived at Parliament Green in the fading light with saddle sores, wet and cold on a dark Sunday afternoon, said a prayer (God, I'm sick and my kids are traumatised, please do something), shook my fist at the sky and the houses of parliament and then got the train home.
It just seemed like the thing to do so I did it.

Of course there's more to it than that, the people I met and the things I thought, but that's the bear bones. The problem is that over the last seven years the nagging thought that I should cycle home festered inside.

So, like a man with no grasp of common sense or regard for weather, distance or practical realities thats what I'm doing.

Big Ben to Northumberlandia (the naked lady is only a mile from my house)

This time I'm taking a trusty companion the immutable Zippy.
414 miles, 4 days, two bikes.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Unresolved narrative

It's been a hard week for a load of different and mainly external reasons. Of course it goes without saying that I can't say what, when, who, how or why. Of course I can confirm that they're all related directly to the early lives my children and their route to my door. I'm not down or depressed. I just am.

I was speaking to a friend about something or other and he noted that some folks he knew struggled with what I wrote sometimes as there was, as he said it, 'an unresolved narrative'.

Well if it makes you feel any better so do I.

I write what happens, what I see and what I think. Of course I filter and edit it but it's an account of our lives from my perspective. Other perspectives are available of course but I feel that I'm fairly representative of a large number of parents who care for children who have experienced trauma, loss, separation and have travelled through the care system.

I write to make me feel better, to get the dirty water off my chest. I'd love to write about all the warm hugs and beautiful moments that blossom out of difficult experiences. Perhaps I do but in different less obvious ways, I think I find hope.

Today as Mrs C and I returned from our recent sessions with one of the massive's therapist I confessed that I didn't know how all of this is going to turn out for us as a family. Not the immediate but the long term. Not depressed just pragmatic, what does the future hold? I never thought that we'd retire to the seaside, see the grandkids once a week for a slice of Battenberg cake and a Wurthers Original, crikey no.  But I'm not sure how in the medium to long term some of my children's adult lives are going to play out. Our journey so far indicates that for some it will be ok but for some it's not so clear,  so our narrative is unresolved, but can anyone's be resolved?

This week my heart skipped as I walked through the shops, Lotty's 10 year old hand took hold of mine and we walked and talked. Her hand felt small but it was just so natural with an easy familiarity that was precious. Big deal, you say but I'm her dad and I'm the proudest dad in the world because she loves me. I also know that in 5 years this time holding hands will not happen.

Sometimes I hold onto that second in time when my hand is held because in that moment my narrative actually feels pretty much resolved.