When Jo and I went on our first long adventure, I tried to write a few things down. They ended up being endless lists of we did this, we did that, yada yada yada. A friend whose writing skills I really respect, advised me to write about one event at a time, no matter how ordinary, use it as a means of describing your entire experience at that time. It's been a while since I've written anything, so please be kind in your analysis, just try and imagine the scene I've tried to give you.
So this morning, after a night of heavy rain, it was lovely and sunny, just right for a cycle race around the town of Mino. As always, I have my breakfast at 7am, (today, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fruit, yoghurt, cereal and coffee). I worked for a short time on my paper lantern and then attached all the lamp components onto the pannier rack of my silver, generic, step through bicycle. I said goodbye to Akemi and set off for the studio. The road is normally quiet, (particularly on a Sunday), but today, the Mino footbridge was bustling with people wanting to see, at least one lap, of the five lap cycle race. There were tents, already pitched upon the shore of the Nagara River, people had lit small fires and one guy was strumming an, expensive looking, acoustic guitar. The roads around Mino had been completely closed off, red and white cones lined parts of the route and tall thin advertising flags bellowed quickly in the cool morning breeze. A solitary eagle flew overhead, he must have only been about twenty feet above us, but he seemed intrigued as to what was going on, the school kids, matching yellow hats must have caught his eye, particularly as they cheerily walked in pairs, singing a tune I didn't recognize. Some 'serious' looking cyclists arrived to spectate - lycra clad and faces wrapped in iridescent lensed eye shields. Their bikes were all Italian. All light-weight carbon racing machines, sprayed in conservative white, black or maybe red. I nodded toward them with appreciation, noting the British flag adorning one rider's chest; it seems the Union Jack is loved here, a fashion statement, a sign of Flamboyance? Street smartness, synonymous with confidence and communication? Or just a colourful pattern, an attractive moniker?
Officials, dressed in white, monogrammed, shell suits and matching long peaked caps, ushered the school teacher and her tiny students through a barrier, it was safe to cross. The eagle looked on. The lady who owned the octopus stand was out of her usual seat, she was stood I front of her dwelling, waving a flag, without any sight of the cyclists- she seemed to just want to wave a flag! One official seemed to be watching the race on his mobile phone, the female commentators shrill voice, evermore so, through the phones tiny, tinny speaker. Still no sign of the Pelaton. I parked up my bike, leaned it upon its stand, removed my camera from the handlebar basket and readied myself for the oncoming delights. As always, I avoided the gaze of the people around me; kids with their parents, knew I was there alright, parents with their kids also knew, but everyone pretended to ignore the elephant in the room, particularly as he kept his head lowered, trying hard to become invisible.
Acitivity amongst the officials increased, voices were being raised more often, urgency, tangible in their tone. Walkie Talkies crunched and a car suddenly came around the corner, official papers were taped to the bonnet and doors, the light on its roof, flashed red, even in the bright sunlight. Mobile phones were being lifted, lenses focused upon the bend in the road, focused toward the Octopus Lady and her waving arm. Digital cameras beeped, mine included, as the imaginary mechanical bustle headed our way. I focused on nothing but the road now, a solitary motorcyclist drove through the narrowing, closely followed by a, wasp yellow, 'neutral service' vehicle, an army jeep and the front two cyclist of the event. The cyclists seemed to be coasting, smiling at the spectacle of us smiling at them. The vehicles seemed to be hindering their efforts, but they flew by, all the same. Then the pack arrived, the Pelaton, the blurring coloured mesh of machine and men, gears crisply clicking and tyres smoothly sliding on by. My camera couldn't catch them, my eyes would have been quicker to note down the brands, the makes of helmets, bikes and sportswear.
Then they were gone, the pack bracketed by another army jeep and yellow support vehicle. The first of five laps, a hard hill climb lay ahead, as did hours of jostling and barging, elbows and knees brown and shiny in the morning light.
I returned to my bike, stepped through the frame and pushed away the kick stand. I deftly negotiated the bollards, thanking the female police woman as I moved on through. I heaved up the hill, standing, bearing heavily down upon the pedals. The imaginary Pelaton was in pursuit, it's energy was fueling my flight. I quickly passed through the clammy concrete tunnel, the motivation to avoid an on-coming car giving me a further boost. It wasn't long before I reached my goal...the pedestrian crossing; a red light - halt. I was forbidden from progress, wind was sucked from my sails, I was forced to wait for the blue man to appear. The Pelaton had long gone, I was left behind, patiently waiting for permission to cross; seems I'm always waiting for permission to go in front, maybe this trip is the beginning of me leading a race and not being afraid or apologizing for leaving people in my slipstream....