Another day another 50 miles under the belt. This will take me past half way to the first milestone which I presume will be somewhere in western France. Only a few notable events in the day so I will dispense them and then move onto a more interesting topic of conversation I have been having with myself over the past few days.
The route was quite straight forward and predictably scenic. I cannot believe my luck with the weather it does not feel like October to me, and tonight for the first and only time I will camp in the UK.
In the morning I got out of the Cotswold, in the afternoon, passed the awe inspiring sight of Swindon, I have done the first of what I hope will be many good deeds along my journey. Just shy of twenty miles to go for the day and I discovered another forest path built on the remains of a railway line. Along this path I spot in the distance what looks like the silhouette of two touring bikes leaning on the side of the path. As I approach I am stopped by a young Korean girl who asks me if I have a puncture repair kit. Her friend, she says, had just left a few minutes before to seek assistance as two punctures in successive days had him out of spare tubes and glue. I told her I had the glue and she called him back. While we wait we make our introductions and she explains me she is in the UK for a year to travel and explore sustainability. As the chap comes back I take out the glue and then, having seen the state of his inner tube, I elect to give him one of my spare inner tubes. He insists that I take some money and I do but I suspect my good deed satisfaction was matched and surpassed by their new tube happiness.
After leaving them it only took another hour and a half to get to the campsite. I have to say campsites in the UK are a bit basic. I suspect last time I was in one of them it was either in Italy or France and that would have raised my expectations. That said, so long as I find my stuff in the morning when I wake up I’ll be very happy and I’ll have the UK camping badge too.
Ok, enough now of this reporting event and let’s delve deeper in the thorn bush that is my brain. As you might immagine, sitting on a bicycle all day allows for a lot of thinking time and I have dedicated some of this time to solving the ill of this country youth. The train of thought started with a remark on how, while I always labeled myself “lefty” or “working class” I have well and truly left behind any leftism with this latest exploit in my life. Granted i do not have servants carrying my stuff and I have set myself some spending targets, more for my own amusement that for need, but it is undeniable that the whole not working anymore and simply moving from place to place following some imaginary spiritual current, finds its most recognisable twin in a romantic grand tour which was hardly the pursuit of working class people.
And yet I wonder, what is the significance of a class structure anymore. Birth gave way to money a long time ago, now it’s just the case of those who can and those who cannot, those who can picture and with enough hard work achieve a better future for themselves and those whose imagination is shackled and cannot master the tools necessary for dreaming of a better future for themselves. So why don’t we send them all cycling?
I am unsure of what the current rate for unemployment benefit is? nor I know what is the cost of any of the many work promoting schemes that are so popular with governments of any persuasions. Surely it might be possible to rustle up a bursary of say £100 per week. Looking at my spent over the past 15 days it looks like I will have spent approximately £500 per month by the time I leave Europe and I expect to spend probably half that throughout Africa. I am saying this as I assume we all agree that something like I am doing is an ideal mind opening activity. What could be better than inject into our under achieving youth a shot of self belief and experience that could turn their life around far more cost effectively than yet another IT course.
Finally the cherry on the cake of these type of project would be that most of the money of the program would be spent, just like mine will be, in underdeveloped countries hence providing a vital lift to those economies in a way that is neither paternalistic nor can be redirected to the funding of banana republics.