The End?

Emotionally rather than logically, I take the nearest campsite in Amsterdam shower, change and make way for my last evening in the city. Two days have passed, through Denmark and Germany. Side roads and cross fields of ripening corn, the weather smiles on me and I gather it's 30 - 36 degrees London. It's noticeably hotter, I remove my clothes under my jacket except the grubby coffee stained m&s cotton t shirt worn for the last three weeks. Two nights ago, some German crowded site, full of Danish couples by a Lake. I make friends with two ducks, female is bolder than her husband... Taking small nips at my fingers, mostly in play. Ducks like dogs will play with you if they trust you. Yes, I did video it, to be added later...

I could tell you in words the scenery but it just is simply inadequate. The miles mount, journeys shorter, slower, stops more frequent. Lunch by minor road; piquant hummus and seeded rolls, peach juice and coffee on my Chinese stove. I ignore huge lorries and speeding cars in the sunshine by a cornfield. Not a care in the world, the anti depressants have now built up a wall to protect my hypothalamus to let it grow back to its proper size. I am happy, not delirious, merely carefree and brave as I need to be.

I type this outside a bar on a canal, a group of sober English boys with privately educated loudvoices discuss football. I am hungry, only one coke all day and time is getting on, air a lot cooler. Soft saxophone music pokes out onto the tables outside.

Second night, more eccentric and possibly the most odd stay so far. Three old men in their seventies, pot bellied and in shorts by a plastic swimming pool, blue walls above ground, quite large, steps included inside a chain link fence. Two wearing leather cowboy hats, old men glasses, Hello! Guten Tag they wave at me and march me over to a clear are with pine trees, a carpet of dry brown needles on the ground and pine cones. DANKE I said. Tent up in two minutes, bags clothes mat and sleeping bag, helmet chucked inside.

Hee hee haw haw shouts behind he chain link fence behind me. Hee NEIN! NEIN! Ha haw NEIN!NEIN! Hawhawhaw sound of splashing water. This went on as I made dinner, sainsbury basics noodles in Itsu seaweed extract soup. I have lost weight, too occupied to eat really. Noise and laughter fade before I notice they had stopped. It didn't annoy me, I found it comforting and amusing. The rest of the site was deserted, tenderly arranged fences, gardens outside static caravans with pathetic plastic flowers or brightly coloured gnomes outside some, others caked in neglect, pine needles and dirt. Branches pile up on he roofes. Outside the toilets, a list of events in a dusty glass cabinet.
10th Mai Bingo
29th Juli Bingo (crossed out date)
Etc.
The site has some sad stories to tell; the initial enthusiasm of a happy couple, they save and pay for a twin axle caravan, good spec, one dies or they lose their jobs. Their visits less and less frequent. Last year they never came. The rear window is broken, the curtains inside once clean are grey and lifeless. The men in cowboy hats were paid a year in advance for the rent but they don't come for the bingo or pool parties anymore, haw haw.

A small oak tree above my head, I think of the Nazis when I see those oak leaves, their significance in symbolism of the master race. Woop whoop! NEIN!

I must confide in you, I had some real concerns I left my detachable jacket lining back somewhere, I looked and looked, was even prepared to hunt down a branch of Hein Gericke on my way home. Resigned myself that I had left it behind, I started to pack. There it was! Stuffed right at the back of my tank bag. I laughed at myself, but was really more worried I was getting the onset of alzheimers.

I say goodbye he one of he men in cowboy hats to pay. Seven euro... Wow that's four quid, the cost of two cokes on the motorway. Best value. Great site.

I ring the ferry company and change my return date to the day before, the woman on the phone sweetly said it would cost me another £47, prices have gone up sir. I want to go home now, so near and my bones ache.

The day rolls on, a brisk ride on the E30, the German part at 85 plus to avoid the lorries. It's either crawl at 45 or jump in at the maximum speed limit. Most drivers are doing 130mph and you just have to get out their way.

Amsterdam, sweaty, traffic, tourists. Ibis wanted 170EUR a night so I opted for a site. 16EUR.

So coffee shop, Heinekens, meal.

Amsterdam restaurant ; French septegenarians stand and chat next to me. Another couple sit silently, chewing their dinner, morose. Younger group chatter mindlessly.

The bike.
Skip this bit if you really don't want to hear about metal things.

The R1100RS is now 21 years old, bought on eBay in 2004. Recently I have done a few restoring tasks on her.
Cam chain tensioner upgrade
New starter motor, Nippon Denso not Valeo which are unreliable
Replaced Hall effect sensor when it failed
Battery, Odyssey
High performance plugs
New plug leads
Cleaned injectors,throttle bodies, new o rings
New Metzlers back and front
Rear brake lines and rubber to reservoir
New discs back and front
Throttle bodies balanced
Internal fuel lines and overflow reservoir cleaned in tank, tank cleaned of all the grot inside
Etc

So I am eating a goats cheese and date salad by a canal and my elbows ache. I will have to get her sold, get something more upright, less bone strain at the elbows and wrists.

I have been lucky, I have seen so many things, frozen mists over the lakes near Alta, oceans of flowers,angry grey clouds lifting their skirts to a secret blue sky, yellow cornfields, countless classic cars with their burbling v8's, reindeer, boar... Drop a comment if you have got this far.

( Jtreg on instagram.)

28th and 29th June

The tall fat bassist, from the band Sleepytown, wearing the silly American red trucker hat, handlebar moustache and huge square glasses followed me out along the stony potholed path, onto the main road. I paused to look at my satnav as he overtook me in his dumpy high roofed van, beige in colour. I was in no hurry, no script, simply to be in Holland sometime before next Saturday. Some motorway travel E6 then fast food and free WiFi. The stage was set; actors milling and shuffling around me in the Macdonalds. A stocky Swede father boomed out his order to the meek highly intelligent looking young womam; he holds up the queue, probing his wallet for those special money off coupons and further enraged the others in the queue as his two badly behaved boys, thumping and arm wrestling each other. They pause to hold up their expensive smart phones at the cashier, winning further discounts. I order the biggest burger on the menu, I needed it.

Enough of motorways: it was time to see the last part of Sweden before Malmo On the way up, I didn't enjoy it, it was cold and rainy, not this afternoon, a balmy quiet Sunday. I drift down empty little lanes past endless charming unique houses, clipped lawns, sculpted trees, tidy villages, immaculate churches. I even stopped to photograph some of them. No space to drop my tent however, all was taken. Fortunaly Netto was still open, a man with a huge blue scorpion tattood on his neck had commandeered the one sole member of staff, leaving all four tills abandoned. No rush.

Carpets of lupins, with their scent gives way to poppies and cow's parsley then daisies the further south I travel...

Eventually, I find a quiet spot in a forest, after three attempts. A good place to stop is not quite as simple as it sounds. Away from the road, a firm place to support the bike without toppling over, good coverage behind trees to promote privacy. As you may already know, wild camping is legal in Scandinavia provided you do not camp more than one night and not on someone's farmland, although it is possible to do so with the owners permission.

The Netto bread was almost inedible, I eventually decode the Swedish instructions,requireing one to bake the rolls in an oven for ten minutes. I eat the huge tub of beetroot salad and chew methodically on the sesame bun with some salami. The coffee was made on my little stove and I used vanilla flavoured custard as a milk substitute, another shopping error.... But it tasted nice, you should try it.

Memories of the previous afternoon fading faster than my glittery transfer of a bird, applied to the back of my hand, it was really special. Welcomed by those pretty blond angels, such friendly people. To Rebekka who panicked that her life was flashing by, she was nearly forty, to Viktor who tried to scare me with his moose stories, how I should run if I see one, he'll take you down,your four steps is one step for him... He told me of a nasty old moose hangs around in the area, he is tales than a land-rover and if I see him, don't wait, run to higher ground, Viktor would guffaw and nudge me within elbow, passing me his joint. He and his wife had the dark brown hairless crestie dog and they were part of the main organisers of the event, living at the house with other artists. Rooms full of art installations or sleeping bags or weaving looms.... I so was lucky to have met Fillip and Annie in Dals Langed, who tipped me off, otherwise it would not have existed for me. I became Warren Oates in Two Lane Black Top while I was there.

29th June
Woken at five by the usual cuckoo, at six by a chattering morning chorus of birds, went back to a lovely deep sleep until ten thirty. No rush.

Tonight, after an easy day a worker bee has settled on my drying t shirt, laid in the ebbing sun. The bee is motionless, sucking up the moisture and remaining remnants of my body odour - although I had just washed it, I had not changed it for two weeks. The water in the wash basin was the colour of ash.

High points to the journey today? Not many, but one I shall never forget was very brief. I was nearing the bridge at Malcolm, southern Sweden, hire miles from the toll booths, a black apparition skipped, bounded across the road no more than thirty feet away. I was going fast, the shape was so black, it was like any light was sucked in, none reflected off its silhouette like body, like how I imagine a black hole to be. A wild boar! Quite common I suppose, for many signs were in the area, replacing the moose signs further north. The hurtling boar dived over the ditch on the left hand side of the road, his hooves kicking up as he disappeared. I slow down but no sign of him in the uncut grass beyond. I pass freshly squashed cat, confused red squirrels as well on the way.

I make my way to Copenhagen, a love child of Holland and Germany they had a little girl... Tivoli gardens with its gyrating fun fair, reminiscent of the permanent Battersea funfair when I was a child hanging off a 49 bus to get there. Smell of candy floss. Screams. Sentimental. Man Ray exhibition? With all this bike gear? Sadly I can't do it.

I visit Cristianaland, part of Copenhagen, based in an old park; was this a gesture of of tolerance by the people of the city to smoking marijuana or another tourist attraction gimmick? Possibly a bit of both. Sign reads at the entrance, "you are now leaving the EU". I push my bike into the walled village within a city. Sellers, hustlers, teenage girls giggling, bearded tramps, emaciated junkies, coughing tourists, drawing on a reefers far stronger than the dope they smoked decades ago. I parked the bike, then enter the 'green light district, no photographs.' and into a stall painted outside with green leaves. Two burly men inside wearing black balaclavas, like terrorists, standing arms folded, ready to mug any idiot like me entering their shop. I wanted to ask one of them, isn't it rather hot and stuffy wearing that balaclava, I mean, doesnt it get damp with your breath on it all day? "brown or green?" the nearest one asks me. "er green, how much?" "ten euro." to keep things pleasant, I ask his name, he glares at me "I... I'm James...", "...Miko", he responds gruffly "Cheers!" I reply in my best Terry Thomas manner, furled umbrella under my arm and bowler hat, "good day to you!"..... placing the neat plastic container in my wallet pocket.

I'm not smoking this here I thought, gotta drive.

I had a chat with a man painting a picture near various stalls, some selling woven bracelets and cheap jewellery. He didn't know the english word for a commission so I filled in for him. He said all of us here have to earn money to stay here, I have many people who want my pictures. He was painting a bright rendition of this sad run down tourist ghetto. In his left hand, a yoghurt pot with streaks of colours as his palette. The the quality of his work seemed a bit second-rate but was still charming. "It's really good!" I lied. He noticed something wasn't right, I simply wanted to go. He asked why I looked so ill at ease and I told him, partially true, that I was a bit worn out, I had been travelling four and a half thousand miles and was going home. He smiled and said, well, relax, you can now. Wished me good luck. He looked intensely at me through his dark framed glasses and crooked grey teeth, I saw a familiar face looking back at me; it was my art teacher, Andy.

I pushed my iron pony out of dodgy city.

On, through he suburbs, avoiding motorways, following local careless and terrible local drivers, worse seen so far, anywhere, even the UK. I plod on and find a campsite in the well tended luxurious green countryside... No wild camping tonight.

I could also just mention Ernie, the toothless Danish proprietor of the campsite I am on. He trundles up to me on his motor mower, I read at the front, a joke number plate, "best driver in the world" I point at this, smiling and do a thumbs up at him. He didn't see the joke. I give you plate to put under your bike. He returned with a plank of wood. I gratefully place it under the kickstand, preventing another bike capsize, this would have been one too many. "Ten euro", Ernie said. Cost of a tourist joint, I thought.

Knorr soup with dehydrated rubber chicken pieces on the Primus stove. Relax, you can now.

28th and 29th June

The tall fat bassist, from the band Sleepytown, wearing the silly American red trucker hat, handlebar moustache and huge square glasses followed me out along the stony potholed path, onto the main road. I paused to look at my satnav as he overtook me in his dumpy high roofed van, beige in colour. I was in no hurry, no script, simply to be in Holland sometime before next Saturday. Some motorway travel E6 then fast food and free WiFi. The stage was set; actors milling and shuffling around me in the Macdonalds. A stocky Swede father boomed out his order to the meek highly intelligent looking young womam; he holds up the queue, probing his wallet for those special money off coupons and further enraged the others in the queue as his two badly behaved boys, thumping and arm wrestling each other. They pause to hold up their expensive smart phones at the cashier, winning further discounts. I order the biggest burger on the menu, I needed it.

Enough of motorways: it was time to see the last part of Sweden before Malmo On the way up, I didn't enjoy it, it was cold and rainy, not this afternoon, a balmy quiet Sunday. I drift down empty little lanes past endless charming unique houses, clipped lawns, sculpted trees, tidy villages, immaculate churches. I even stopped to photograph some of them. No space to drop my tent however, all was taken. Fortunaly Netto was still open, a man with a huge blue scorpion tattood on his neck had commandeered the one sole member of staff, leaving all four tills abandoned. No rush.

Carpets of lupins, with their scent gives way to poppies and cow's parsley then daisies the further south I travel...

Eventually, I find a quiet spot in a forest, after three attempts. A good place to stop is not quite as simple as it sounds. Away from the road, a firm place to support the bike without toppling over, good coverage behind trees to promote privacy. As you may already know, wild camping is legal in Scandinavia provided you do not camp more than one night and not on someone's farmland, although it is possible to do so with the owners permission.

The Netto bread was almost inedible, I eventually decode the Swedish instructions,requireing one to bake the rolls in an oven for ten minutes. I eat the huge tub of beetroot salad and chew methodically on the sesame bun with some salami. The coffee was made on my little stove and I used vanilla flavoured custard as a milk substitute, another shopping error.... But it tasted nice, you should try it.

Memories of the previous afternoon fading faster than my glittery transfer of a bird, applied to the back of my hand, it was really special. Welcomed by those pretty blond angels, such friendly people. To Rebekka who panicked that her life was flashing by, she was nearly forty, to Viktor who tried to scare me with his moose stories, how I should run if I see one, he'll take you down,your four steps is one step for him... He told me of a nasty old moose hangs around in the area, he is tales than a land-rover and if I see him, don't wait, run to higher ground, Viktor would guffaw and nudge me within elbow, passing me his joint. He and his wife had the dark brown hairless crestie dog and they were part of the main organisers of the event, living at the house with other artists. Rooms full of art installations or sleeping bags or weaving looms.... I so was lucky to have met Fillip and Annie in Dals Langed, who tipped me off, otherwise it would not have existed for me. I became Warren Oates in Two Lane Black Top while I was there.

29th June
Woken at five by the usual cuckoo, at six by a chattering morning chorus of birds, went back to a lovely deep sleep until ten thirty. No rush.

Tonight, after an easy day a worker bee has settled on my drying t shirt, laid in the ebbing sun. The bee is motionless, sucking up the moisture and remaining remnants of my body odour - although I had just washed it, I had not changed it for two weeks. The water in the wash basin was the colour of ash.

High points to the journey today? Not many, but one I shall never forget was very brief. I was nearing the bridge at Malcolm, southern Sweden, hire miles from the toll booths, a black apparition skipped, bounded across the road no more than thirty feet away. I was going fast, the shape was so black, it was like any light was sucked in, none reflected off its silhouette like body, like how I imagine a black hole to be. A wild boar! Quite common I suppose, for many signs were in the area, replacing the moose signs further north. The hurtling boar dived over the ditch on the left hand side of the road, his hooves kicking up as he disappeared. I slow down but no sign of him in the uncut grass beyond. I pass freshly squashed cat, confused red squirrels as well on the way.

I make my way to Copenhagen, a love child of Holland and Germany they had a little girl... Tivoli gardens with its gyrating fun fair, reminiscent of the permanent Battersea funfair when I was a child hanging off a 49 bus to get there. Smell of candy floss. Screams. Sentimental. Man Ray exhibition? With all this bike gear? Sadly I can't do it.

I visit Cristianaland, part of Copenhagen, based in an old park; was this a gesture of of tolerance by the people of the city to smoking marijuana or another tourist attraction gimmick? Possibly a bit of both. Sign reads at the entrance, "you are now leaving the EU". I push my bike into the walled village within a city. Sellers, hustlers, teenage girls giggling, bearded tramps, emaciated junkies, coughing tourists, drawing on a reefers far stronger than the dope they smoked decades ago. I parked the bike, then enter the 'green light district, no photographs.' and into a stall painted outside with green leaves. Two burly men inside wearing black balaclavas, like terrorists, standing arms folded, ready to mug any idiot like me entering their shop. I wanted to ask one of them, isn't it rather hot and stuffy wearing that balaclava, I mean, doesnt it get damp with your breath on it all day? "brown or green?" the nearest one asks me. "er green, how much?" "ten euro." to keep things pleasant, I ask his name, he glares at me "I... I'm James...", "...Miko", he responds gruffly "Cheers!" I reply in my best Terry Thomas manner, furled umbrella under my arm and bowler hat, "good day to you!"..... placing the neat plastic container in my wallet pocket.

I'm not smoking this here I thought, gotta drive.

I had a chat with a man painting a picture near various stalls, some selling woven bracelets and cheap jewellery. He didn't know the english word for a commission so I filled in for him. He said all of us here have to earn money to stay here, I have many people who want my pictures. He was painting a bright rendition of this sad run down tourist ghetto. In his left hand, a yoghurt pot with streaks of colours as his palette. The the quality of his work seemed a bit second-rate but was still charming. "It's really good!" I lied. He noticed something wasn't right, I simply wanted to go. He asked why I looked so ill at ease and I told him, partially true, that I was a bit worn out, I had been travelling four and a half thousand miles and was going home. He smiled and said, well, relax, you can now. Wished me good luck. He looked intensely at me through his dark framed glasses and crooked grey teeth, I saw a familiar face looking back at me; it was my art teacher, Andy.

I pushed my iron pony out of dodgy city.

On, through he suburbs, avoiding motorways, following local careless and terrible local drivers, worse seen so far, anywhere, even the UK. I plod on and find a campsite in the well tended luxurious green countryside... No wild camping tonight.

I could also just mention Ernie, the toothless Danish proprietor of the campsite I am on. He trundles up to me on his motor mower, I read at the front, a joke number plate, "best driver in the world" I point at this, smiling and do a thumbs up at him. He didn't see the joke. I give you plate to put under your bike. He returned with a plank of wood. I gratefully place it under the kickstand, preventing another bike capsize, this would have been one too many. "Ten euro", Ernie said. Cost of a tourist joint, I thought.

Knorr soup with dehydrated rubber chicken pieces on the Primus stove. Relax, you can now.

wrong direction home

Like processed frozen orange concentrate, my shit slides down over the warm rock.buried it with the paper under a couple of heavy stones. Yes orange, orange deep. Early in the day, that colour, since my cholecystectomy four years ago that colour, a perfect healthy evacuation. I was in full view of passing cars on heir way north and south. They didn't notice me or care. Pack up and on back to Dals Langred to see my nephew Sandy, no rush, we arranged to meet at five o'clock.

We met, both of us a little late but perfect timing nonetheless, introduced to his Dutch friend Yoshi and jumped in her rickety 1977 Opel Kadett. Up the road to eat at a converted disused factory, unusually made from bricks and quite advanced and grand in its heyday. Special once a month on Fridays the pizza ovens cook artisan bread and we settle down outside with two more of Sandy's friends. We eat. The midges eat us and the evening drifts by. The factory buildings now fully occupied as small business premises, workshops and art spaces. Yoshi takes the wheel of the Opel, chugging down a gravel back Road, past the Vattenfall hydro dam over a treacherous wooden bridge to declining paper factory. Sandy gets out to press a button so that the manual traffic light was in our favour. The paper works are to close in two months, the owners moving the operation to applaud and the 500 or so workers unemployed, little hope of new work in this little Twin Peaks town. On up to Yoshi's commission she is working on; a lock keepers workshop to be converted into an art gallery space. The floor, littered with machine parts for the lock, a table with rusty crude tools, all wood and no windows, floor grimy but brushed carefully. Racks of shelving, each delicately labelled in fountain pen ink from long ago. Outside, hanging on the wall, tiny wooden window boxes with flowers planted made by Yoshi the day before. Outside, along the canal a thick carpet of grass with countless yellow orchids. A red setter perched at the bow of a little boat scudding across the lake to the far side. Yoshi tells us she swims twice a day, it was her cabin I stayed in on the way up. Back at the house, the neighbours were outside chatting. Annie, a tall graceful girl with her boyfriend Fillip ith mutton chop whiskers. Annie plays in a three girl band called Growth and she tell us she played at a festival not far from Dals Langred this weekend, I should go. We drink home made limoncello (vodka, lemon rind sugar and lemon juice) three months soaking, we drank the weak beers I bought at the Coop and Sandy provided some whisky.

Th festival is called "Wrong Direction Home" and about sixty miles west, on the coast. Norwegian flashy cars in and out of the nearby town, off to look for the place. First call, to, a nearby Global Heritage site to ask the way. He three helpful women shows me on the map roughly where it was but had no idea exactly where it was. Further on, I pull over in a car park, two smartly dressed guys in their twenties helpfully look it up on their new phones. Gps map reference, entered into my sat nav, sorted. By the way, the slightly older one with the black narrow tie, lulls out a pamphlet from his leather satchel... Please if you can, go to this website, js.org.... Have a nice festival! They were Jehovas Witnesses.

Tiny sign "Wrong Direction Home", points ahead beyond a small level crossing. Train passes by. Then a dirt road, stones, wobbleing four miles inside a forest track,I'm here.

The huge building once housed a boys borstal 100 years ago, complete with isolation prison and bars in the attic Now converted into an artist work space, renovated to a tidy standard leaving most of it in its original state. Huge Warren of rooms both large and small. A short walk away, I find myself in an abandoned water park. The grimy plastic structures still standing forgotten in a field above,a lake below. The space in front of the main stage is covered in rugs in turn covered with delightful Swedish girls. Two of the three women from the museum turn up and I greet them. Fillip, Sandy's neighbour turns up as well... I have lots of chats with many people, lovely evening.

26th June

25th june
Birdsong starts at 02:00, cuckoos at 06:00. Yesterday 400 miles mostly on the 365 to Dorotea, then the weather improves, past the pretty town Sveg and on towards Mora. But it was warm, sunny even; I had not seen this for days. Most of the day it rained,lightly - not penetrating my waterproofs. As it was dried, I put on my new fur lined snow gloves, the ones with the white leather palms, already second hand and grubby. I had sung most of the day, loudly in my helmet. Something in me had shifted, the therapy of swift monotonous concentration, diving into the gap between the armco and the forty tonner thundering spray as it heads towards you on a fast bend does promote a graceful calmness combined with fear, just enough to focus on the line you take.

High woods, gravel path, time to slow and try it, a clearing, flat dry ground, remains of white loo paper, glued to the ground. Perfect. I'm not hungry, frequent 90 mile fill ups with machine made coffee and the occasional hot dog sustained and helped me keep alert that day, so no need for a big meal. Unfolding ritual; taking my time. Dried hot sour soup, rolls and tasteless fake chicken slices, with peculiar caviar flavoured cheese squeezed from a tube. They sell affordable caviar in shoe Polish sized tins up here but it must be kept chilled, s I leave that...Tea with honey on a huge flat warm rock. Bog cotton nearby in bloom. The ground a neat micro garden of a huge biodiversity, all arranged by the great other. If you are into dualism then it's a pantheon of gardening gods or an omniscient all seeing Money Don, or if you a non dualist it's part of that forgetful portion of me, you know the one, the one that is writing this and will read it later, or before... If time does not exist.

My over trousers are torn with the wind, along the zip on the left calf. Should I Duck tape it up or leave it? These kind of decisions are all I have to be concerned with at the moment. Mosquito spray running out. I apply Voltaren Gel (Diclofnac cream) to my elbows and wrists. I need this stuff at my age, the ibuprofen pills not working. The cooling perfumed feeling soothes me. As the ointment does its work, I am taken back to that week in the Hyatt New York hotel room with my two portable computers, prototypes. They included animations and promotional information on Feldine (oral Diclofnac) and Hypovase, a vasodilator. Thirty one years ago. The prototypes would not work at the demo at Pfizer HQ. The charging circuit for the huge payload of nickel cadmium batteries would simply not fire up. Endless night time conversations with the engineers in Sussex to resolve it. There was nothing I could do, negotiated a week off checking out of the Hyatt and into the Pickwick a cheap dive uptown, used as a brothel, in order to stretch my expenses. Hammering on my door at night screaming, vomit in the ashtrays in reception. I spent the rest of the week sightseeing then flew home. Diclofnac. All premature, but I had the dubious achievement of managing the project for a portable colour computer, the first in the world failing at its first showing. Diclofnac taken orally on a long term basis has revealed a higher incidence of heart problems, if I am not mistaken. However, creams are the way forward in the modern world.

Crawled into tent after 21:00, too cold, fitful sleep. I woke at 01:00 the sun just below the trees, a lower latitude so sunset/sunrise happens for four hours during night time. I took some photos (to be uploaded). Read until two, until blackbirds and cuckoos at six.

24th June

Sitting in a cold sauna overlooking a flat calm lake. Two men in a small rowing boat going through the motions of fishing, although they don't seem very interested in what they are doing. It is four o'clock and I have pulled over to find this almost deserted campsite with a very erratic WiFi connection. Tents appear to go free so all is fine. A neat little dining room with flowers at each table in one cabin, next to the reception and showers. I can hear the rain patterning on the roof as I type this. An imprisoned group of insects bang uselessly against the dusty window.

Yesterday was all about rain. The town I aimed for, eventually, numb soaked, was Tornio. I crossed the bridge and checked into the first hotel I saw. I make this a rule, if I am really drenched and cold I will pay for a room with a warm shower and a real bed. Also, somewhere I can put my soaking clothes and boots into the nearest tumble drier. The short blonde woman in reception welcomed me with a proper smile and did not bat an eyelid when I asked her if a drier was available as my feet squelched in my icy boots. She wanted to tell me about her daughter, her brightly coloured arms were tattood densely, she was from Gothenburg but you have to leave the motorbike in basement, 12 Euro. "OK OK" I thought... 200 miles in heavy cold rain. Two hours earlier I began to drift off to sleep, yes, at 110 kph in battering rain. This is really a problem on a bike, one of the hazards riding long distances day after day. I pull to the gravel verge. Lorries spray thundering past. I lean on my tankbag fall asleep for a few minutes, the rain still beating down on my back and gloves. My hands and feet were frozen, omitting to do the feet in plastic bags trick. However, this journey would not have been possible without my new waterproof over jacket and trusty old waterproof trousers.

I sat reading my Karl Ove in the laundry room in the basement next to the thump thump of the drier for two hours. The concrete floor had an open drain with a greasy grey puddle, I guess to let out water if the washing machine flooded. In. E end, I decide to leave my clothes turning for another one hour twenty minutes and go and look for something to eat. The town on the Tuesday evening pretty dead with dull uninspiring buildings. The pharmacy had two winds, each dedicated to one drug of choice, posters of a woman with her head leaning into her upright hand as he before shot, the after shot, her grinning at (her) children. The sales rep must have taken the pharmacist outta lunch across he road to the Greek restaurant with Finnish menus I could not understand. In the end I sat down in the clinical shiny enormous Turkish pizza restaurant and was served the most enormous revolting slab of cheese big enough to poison a family of four. The cheese, like orange chewing gum with the occasional slice of pepperoni and half a tin of pineapple chucked over it. Mexican.

The room, deliciously comfortable and the experience heightened by contrasting it with eleven days of sleeping on hard ground, pestered my midges. I watched an American film with subtitles and fell into a deep dreamless sleep. Enormous delicious breakfast and off to pack. The smily pretty morning receptionist said motorbike parking is free when I offered to pay the 12 EUR.

I aimed to get to Dorotea on the sat nav; not the fastest route, to take me down little country roads in peace and at a modest pace. By four o'clock I had only travelled three quarters of the plotted journey but I am in no hurry, I will have days to spare if dove home now. I stop. Yet another delightful lake and empty place, a few buildings and I whittle a stick, cleaning off the bark with my knife. I learned from the eccentric Buddhist place I stopped off on my travels in British Colombia that you can use a stick as a meditation aid. Balance the stick on the section between thumb and forefinger and close eyes gently. If you doze off, the stick falls away and you wake to catch it. I scribed along the stick "meditation stick" with my ballpoint pen and left it balanced on the pile of stones at the edge of the little bonfire area with facing wooden benches.

A few miles on, it starts to drizzle, I pull into Rannuddens Campsite and set up the tent. Industrial mosquitoes in vicious swarms bombarding me as I fumbled with the tent poles. It's OK I mutter, it's free... wearing my green head net.

23rd June

Fly Fisher folk flinging their lines from the racing vast river below me. I have just treated myself to reindeer meat and mashed potato with acid red berries (loganberry). After dinner, collect my sainsbury bag with tea and coffee gear, propane stove and make tea at the sun bleached picnic table. It is nearly midnight. A small water mammal darts around in the shallow waters near the shore. The black clouds partially cover the bright sun, carving a peculiar sculpture shape. The biting wakes me from this dream and I pull my Alaskan mosquito head net back over my face. Light rain kisses us. A serious looking woman sternly lights fire, like a true expert despite the drizzle. Smoke from the wooden sauna house with its spectacular fat steamboat chimney. The Finnish women chat with their men in a large group under the awning of a huge bus sized shiny campervan. They will make love together later, I could hear it in their laughter and the deep confident replies of their men. This goes on until 2:30 and I drift off to sleep.

Complimentary all you can eat breakfast; by nine the coffee for my second cup had run out but I demolished a mountain of scrambled egg, chipolatas and poppy seed biscuits. Munching while reading A Death in The Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard, I am late coming to this book but savouring every page. Thank you to Ross for encouraging me to read it. Effric is such a fan and now I understand why. I am not sure what I will do today, the warm drizzle patters on my tent, no hurry. Time is passing quickly underneath me but I don't seem to worry for the time being.

22nd June

I like like Finland and the Finnish, so human, not Germanic like the Swedes. It's dull but friendly. Warmer summers too. Does this affect the national character? I know the English to be untrustworthy, like the weather. The French deceitful, because they keep their best wine. I will watch my Akki Kaurosmaki (sic) films again when I get home. Now where is that BMW dealer to buy a new nearside front lens?

Ouspensky who quoted Gurdjieff said "man can do without food for a few days, water even less, to be without air for a minute or two but man cannot do without impressions for but for a few seconds."

Impressions.

Impression: Wet sleeping bag. Wet tent. Still, I'm dry and warm but it's still drizzling after a bright daytime-nightime heavy shower of rain, all night.

impression: The German parked right next to the tent in a huge converted army lorry, revving his engine to wake me at daylight-midnight.

Impression: The hot tarmac gives way to the side stand invisibly, the bike lies crunching on the ground.

Impression: The Lupine huge dog rolls on his back for me and wags his tail outside the petrol station

Impression: Confused at my satnav, getting lost, into bad rain.

Impression: The sky is a dustbin lid lifting at the corner to reveal an aquamarine world, showing me hope.

Impression: Reindeer meat tonight for celebrating not hiring a Hutte for 900 Kroner the night before.

impression: The shop and garage owner helping me choose food in his supermarket, and introducing me to his Sami wife.

The Sami people apparently are the only ones allowed to farm reindeer, they were the first nation here and we are southern tribes whomever invaded them long ago. Now they run souvenir tee pees selling hides and antlers and cheap Chinese tat. It really is so like north British Colombia, the first nation men drink in separate bars and drive roadster cars with four doors and a boot (trunk). The white protestants, some from Scandinavia too, settled and now wear cowboy hats and drive fancy pickup trucks. I drank in the first nation bar. I think I wroteabout it in my previous blog.

Please respond with comments I would love to hear from you...

21st June

A day of two halves.
Set off smartest at 8:45 and journeyed through hell and heaven, te cold dripping dark deep tunnels that transport you three and four miles down down down then out again into sunshine, the sea... Heavenly mountains and spectacular views, really glorious in the warm sunshine. I arrived at Nordkapp at 12:15, walked over the barren hillside, no trees. Moss, couch grass and tiny wild orchids, plenty of reindeer. Speaking of tunnels, I passed another group of summer skiers, six of them with their roller blades and ski sticks merrily scooting through the dark wet tunnel three miles deep into the mountain. Nordkapp with its steady stream of coaches, camper vans and motorcycles is there to behold. Yes, a parking lot for all the people who will buy mementos and photograph and a huge globe the marks the spot. I waited in the queue to pay 200 Norwegian Kroner to enter this car park.. Thought for a moment, decided not, turned round and explored the area then lunch on a grassy hill of couch grass.

I sauntered back in the sunshine and decided to take another route back, towards Finland 4pm then the weather flipped like a switch and cold rain started to beat down. Hell is rainy and wet. I filled with petrol and found a campsite. The idea that it never rains in Norway is of course ridiculuous but I was lucky so far and thought it would last the trip. So now, I sit in reception with excellent WiFi and plan a direct route back inland to drier (hopefully) Sweden. It is approximately 200 miles to the E45 along less good roads but these roads will be away from the coast, not the longer, prettier route along the coast that I took on the way up. Reluctantly, time to go back to my sodden little tent.

And now, the longest day is still not over.

20th June

Passing six roller bladers with ski sticks pumping their way along the gloomy two mile long tunnel, no lights, take their lives in their hands. Practice for winter.

Plump fox crosses the single lane road further on. Not the scrawny London foxes but more like a toy fox with fat furry arms, I hoot at him, he looks back, almost smiling at me. The body clock is utterly confused up here. Driving all day through under and over mountains, the sun hardly changing height, hugging the coast. The road surface, absent in large sections as we climb ever northwards, getting worse, the scenery and conditions, getting even better. The intense blue of the skies, rapidly changing clouds. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, I am be a tankful of petrol away from the northernmost point in Europe.

Pulled over, into a campsite outside Alta, last largish town on the northern coast, cold and exhausted. Rented a little Hutte, basically a wooden chalet with heating, four bunks, fridge,table by the little window with curtains. It reminded me of the cedar wood cabin we rented in Big Sur, California many years ago. It smelt of dusty library, like the entomology library, top room in the corner tower of the Natural History museum, where I hid to find peace, studying at university. I lay on the lower bunk, leaned over and it collapsed under me. It was broken already, Anton, the previous obese biker had scratched his name on the wooden boards above me had deceitfully reassembled the underneath supports to trap the next occupant. I chuckled, levering myself up off the floor of the dolls house.

Several bikes parked outside each Hutte, no British bikes seen -at all, in fact along the way. The German bikers paused chomping on their food at the picnic table outside. I grin at them inanely and they carry on their chomping in silence. This, to many of us travelling are in fact on a pilgrimage. In silence. No one speaks, like on a retreat, avoiding eye contact. This was not apparent at the outset, over a week ago. The huge bonfire, prepared on the beach, includes a wooden bed frame, ready for tomorrow night's celebrations. Couples walk holding hands, soppy as my wife might say.

I wrap my sweater over my eyes and instantly fall into unsettling, vivid dreams.

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