Eastwards and Far


A hungover departure


This was cut from a section near the beginning detailing my departure from the UK. On the morning after a few too many drinks on my last night in Yorkshire I missed my booked train, then wondered whether this was a portent of more disorganisation-based mishaps to come…

I felt mildly frustrated. In my mind, this morning marked the start of a new chapter, and missing the train was the most stereotypically disorganised beginning to it. I packed and saw myself out – Michael was still sleeping off a hangover of his own – then wondered whether I could blag a free seat on the next train, and whether the opening journey south would be a kooky anecdote or an expensive mishap. My fate, and the cost of my accidental lay in, rested solely on the disposition of the conductor.

Maybe they’d let me off. I could sweeten the deal by offering them a chance to feature in the book I would write, which at the time was nothing more than a lofty ambition. It didn’t take long to realise how unwelcome and unbelievable this offer would be from a slightly disheveled, clearly flustered man.

Why hadn’t my alarm gone off? Of all the days for it randomly not to, it had chosen the most sadistic. And why hadn’t my body clock woken me thirty minutes earlier? At least then I could have rushed frantically for the train rather than missing it outright.

Such questions were futile, though. Other situations like this would probably arise on the road, and acceptance would be the best way to deal with them. So I just collected my bags, packed my bike, rode to the station, and planned the hustle.

Once there I manhandled my bike into the next departing train and found the conductor, having learned from experience they’re more lenient if you find them first than vice versa. The hangover rumbled away meanwhile, gracefully subduing itself while I dealt with the situation but reminding me it would require my attention shortly.

As a thought exercise, I tried to imagine scraping myself out of bed and onto a bike saddle on a similarly groggy morning in Canada. It didn’t feel promising. Then I imagined trying to cycle a hundred miles after the fact. That felt even less promising.

The conductor received a botched version of the spiel I’d prepared, my eloquence hindered by many drinks and not much sleep the night before. But against the odds, she accepted. Possibly captivated by my tales of faraway places; more likely feeling some amount of pity.

But either way, there it was. As the train rolled out of the station, a journey four years in the making was underway. A journey across the best part of a continent. A journey which, despite an ignominious beginning, would hopefully end with a new appreciation of Canada, my resolve, myself, and who knew what else.

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