The white cliffs of Dover, backdrop to the ferry port, and a thousand Polish lorries. There’s a red line through it all directing bicycles in a convoluted maze.
Bicycles aren’t like cars. They’re a kind of exotic beast requiring much checking and paperwork. But eventually it’s done, and I can sit down with a well deserved coffee.
Catherine plays cello with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, and wants to know all about a carbon fibre cello on a bicycle. So we get it out in the carpark, and she plays Haydn and Bach – beautifully – and expresses much approval.
There follows an invitation to Lausanne, and a concert of two cellos. I’ll have to look at a map and see how far off route that is. After all, in this Second Movement there is supposed to be improvisation on the themes of the First…
Yes, in England most of the itinerary – performances and places to stay – was organised ahead. Here I plan a more extempore, improvised, uncertain version of the same thing. And suddenly I’m in an enormous panic about it.
I need more structure. I need to know where I’m staying, and where I’m playing. How did I ever think I could do this in a foreign country, in a foreign language?
The further I pedal, the more impossible it seems. It’s only 25 miles from Calais to St. Omer, but the side wind is strong and relentless. I’m exhausted, and for the first time since I left home, properly lonely.
I found a place to stay in St. Omer, through the cyclists’ website Warmshowers.org, but I can’t locate it. Communication hasn’t been easy in two languages, and it isn’t easier when eventually we are face to face.
It’s not until after I decline his invitation to go a couple of miles into town for an aperitif that I work out Yves has gathered a few friends for a performance in a bar. By then it’s too late to rescue the situation. What the French call a faux pas.
But when I get the cello out and play for Yves and Caterina in their lovely bungalow, everything is restored. Caterina is speaking to her daughter on the phone, and the daughter then wants to speak to me: “You’re coming to Arras on Saturday, so you will stay with us.”
Ten minues later there’s another Warmshowers.org email, and I find I’ve got two places to stay on Saturday, but as yet nowhere on Friday.
I’ve got a day ahead, because of not staying in Calais, so shall I add Lille to the plan, or just go to Arras for two days?
It would be easier to make plans if the £10 per month roaming bundle I thought I’d bought from EE hadn’t suddenly turned into £2 per day plus a lot of extras.
Perhaps if I get a good night’s sleep it won’t all be quite so overwhelming in the morning.