One much happier knee… check
One happy physiotherapist… check
One slightly happier bank account… check
One very haphazard idea of my route through Turkey… check
One hapless grimace for the photo on my Syrian VISA… check
One happy camper
I fly back to Istanbul in just seven days time to continue my world ride. I’m twelve whole weeks post op and my sun tan from southern Europe’s spring time has been fading in the British summer. My route takes me next across an Asian land-bridge of Turkey, Syria and Jordon before I reach Egypt and then begin to cycle down the eastern side of the African continent, number two of the six on my hit list. I celebrate my 30th birthday in mid-September, probably in Syria. I may be alone in my tent but as long as I’m making tracks, and my knee’s behaving, I’ll be content. With the temperature often into the 40s in this part of the world at this time of year, it may prove to be a gruelling come-back.
The surgery went smoothly and I even got the piece of troublesome cartilage to take home in a jar. I considered turning it into some sort of pendant I could wear around my neck to remind me that obstacles can be overcome but decided that this was a bit excessive. After the operation I spent six weeks hobbling around on crutches and getting to grips with a physiotherapy regime which involved performing various manoeuvres whilst watching the World Cup on tele, except if England were playing, as this would undoubtedly have resulted in untold damage to my delicate knee. The rest of my summer was spent working in the ICU and Accident and Emergency departments of Guys and St Thomas’ Hospitals, catching up with old mates and having the occasional, but not always literal, knees up. At the end of my spell at home my knee feels sturdy and I’m more than ready to return to the road.
My days at home were at times frustrating but all in all I’ve had a blinding summer. The highs definitely outnumbered the lows. Here’s the proof, in no particular order… some of the best and worst bits from my summer at home…
1. Post-operative morphine
2. The British Festival Season
I managed to get away to six fine festivals this summer, each a scrumpy-fuelled dive into a musical abyss. I even managed to gain access to a Rage Against The Machine gig in Finsbury Park by storming the fence… on my crutches. It proved good physiotherapy and my knee definitely felt better afterwards.
I think anyone who’s spent any time on crutches will appreciate that you get accustomed to numerous random acts of kindness from strangers, whether it’s on the tube, in the supermarket or at a festival. Tube station escalators were fairly easy to master but the art of “crutch-raving” was not. Whilst listening to music at a festival this involves hopping around with erratic enthusiasm on the good leg and waving both crutches high in the air in a vigorous and perilously wonky fashion. Crutch-raving works best to Old School Jungle, Drum and Bass or anything over 160 beats per minute.
4. The first time I managed to stand unsupported on just my left leg for a whole minute
5. Hitting the 10,000 quid mark raised for Merlin, 20% of the target.
6. Meeting a girl
7. School Talks
I got a great reception at Cokethorpe School and was delighted they invited me to speak. Thank you to both Cokethorpe and Abingdon for raising tons of cash for Merlin. The kids asked some great questions but “What happens if you injure your right knee? and “What if your bike’s not where you left it in Istanbul” did unnerve me a bit.
8. A brief get-away to Sweden and Finland
9. A new cycling buddy
I can now confirm that I now have a friend joining me for the African leg of my ride… the nine month adventure from Cairo to Cape Town. Nyomi Rowsell flies out to Cairo with her bike at the end of October. I always believed that it would take careful consideration if a friend decided they wanted to join me for such a large chunk of the expedition. Having Ny along was a no-brainer. She’s a friend and ex-flat mate and I think the perfect person to share the experience with… immensely positive, motivated, determined and physically up to the challenge, with a passion for cycling. She is also infamously frugal which can only be a good thing. When I first met Nyomi she was working full time at a charity for free, living off out of date sandwiches that she’d managed to blag from sandwich shops, sofa surfing to avoid rent and finding old discarded bikes on the street to bring home and repair. But instead of drip feeding you details I will let Ny introduce herself properly on this blog later on.
10. Catching up with friends and family and then discovering just how many people have been following this blog. Thank you for your support.
1. Discovering six weeks after the surgery that my left leg had withered away and had become two inches slimmer in diameter than my right.
2. Having my bag stolen.
After months cycling through the wilds of eastern Europe with all my belongings intact, I returned to London to have my bag stolen in a Shoreditch pub. IPOD, passport, glasses and almost all of my clothes vanished into the villainous ether.
3. Getting one of my crutches stuck in the plastic mesh floor of a festival portaloo and very nearly falling in headfirst in a sort of Mr Bean-esque misadventure.
4. Putting 32 stitches into the head of a very inebriated and frustratingly mobile man at 4 am in the Accident and Emergency department of St Thomas’ Hospital.
5. The words of my Anaesthetist at exactly the moment he injected the anaesthetic for my operation “So do you think you’ll go back to being a doctor when you come home? I doubt it. Ha ha ha ha ha! Off to sleep now”.
So now that the blog and my knee are back up and running again please help me get more people reading… become a follower if you’re not already (check the right hand column of this blog) or spread the word on facebook. You can also give it a star rating on the network blogs facebook application. Please invite some friends to follow it too. The next post, complete with photos of a crispy, sunburnt and barely recognisable cyclist, will come from Damascus.