Here I am in Guise, a little French fortress town, dodging thunder and lightning storms.
The big send-off already seems so far away. Graham [aka base camp manager] made a brilliant START banner and the Laing Terrace community came out to see me off. Then my folks waived me off on the ferry. Yes, there were tears. The ferry trip was brilliant and the best way to start. As the boat chugged its way out under the bridges and passed my beloved Portobello, I waved it goodbye. It seemed as if I could almost touch Inchcolm as we passed and then my senses were hit with the pungent smell from the Bass Rock and its thousands of wheelign and diving gannets. The cabin was gorgeous and I had a really nice meal with a couple I met who live 5 minutes around the corner. Needless to say, I slept well, any nerves or worries dissipated now that I was on my way.
As soon as I was off the ferry at Zeebrugge I picked up the North Sea Cycle Route, or Nordzee as they say locally. This same cycle route traces a route all the way to Portobello and I was tickled by the thought that if I kept following it I would end back home. It sure is busy with cyclists though. After a couple of days on this route I turned south and cycled across Belgium in a couple of days - as you do. Belgium is a bit like my life before leaving on this trip - very pleasant but not wildly exciting - but does have some gorgeous wee cathedral towns with cobbled squares and colourful cafes. Sometimes I'm joined along the road for a while for a bit of chat by the Lycra Lads - the superfit, Tour de France types - which is nice but their pace is obviously a bit too fast for me.
Before long I crossed the border into France and found myself yabbering away with a modicum of proficiency in the local lingo. Which was just as well as I soon had a bit of explainng to do. I had pulled into a French supermarket to buy some food and to save carrying my huge amounts of luggage around, I loaded them into my trolley. At the checkout, the assistant said she would hve to check my bags as I'd taken them around the store. Well imagine my horror when we both discovered a tin of tuna in there that I'd bought earlier that day. My heart sank as I thought I was going to be arrested for shoplifting and would join the infamous list of Brits Banged Up Abroad. Somehow I explained myself and got off with it.
Aside from this, I have unwittingly featured as the crowd's entertainment in a strong-man competition and have been stalked while camping on a farm by a rogue peacock and its gang of chickens. And, yes, Forbes it has rained.