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.
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.