Sunday, 16 August 2009

This is what it is all about.......

How very fitting that in first real adventure the lead male role should enter the fold riding a bike whilst carrying a bike. (That's right 2 bikes - one resting on the handle bars.)

(Apologies - no pictures allowed in this Internet cafe???? - they will be with you shortly!!)

I need to set the scene first. The morning of my last day before completing 4 weeks of cycling I met a Spanish girl. We had a little chat and she talked about the fact that the Ukrainians don't smile very much. I defended their corner stating how people have come out of there homes to give me sausages waved to me as I go by. But in all honestly I agreed with her a little bit.

So that very evening I have set my tent up hidden from all on a main road with the air full of diesel and dust, the sound of passing trucks ringing in my ear and making the ground shake ever so slightly.

This is the moment our hero joins me. I step out of my tent and greet him in a way that stops me getting scared again. He smiles. I show him that i too have a bike. Asking "do you speak English" - "yes" he replies - as in "yes" is the only word I know in English. Who would have thought "yes" means "yes I speak English fluently like the queen". An idiot that's who - me.

So he motions for me to pack up my tent and come with him to his home. With all sorts of thoughts going through my mind I decide to give it a go. Why not? He refused to let me carry all my stuff and put the tent on the back of his bike.

As he makes a call - yes he's cycling with another bike, my tent and a mobile in one hand to his ear - I look at the sun flowers I took pictures of earlier. Heads drooping towards the ground, as if sadness overwhelms them. I'd thought about comparing them to the western sunflowers I'd seen - heads held high, full of colour, as if smiling. As I look at these greying sunflowers I notice that every so often I see I fantastically bright one - one that would stand out amongst the western brothers. I wonder to myself whether this man is one of those flowers amongst Eastern men???

So we pass the village, then pass the next village. Nerves start to tingle. This guy is thin, but is ripped!! Every muscle bulges and rolls with each push of the pedal. Can i take him? He's definitely older than me. Would my knee hold up??

We arrive at his house - it's not the kind of house you find in the UK but neither is my tent. he opens the front door which reveals all sorts of thing. Axes, many axes, food, other bits and pieces. He beckons me in. We make our way through a dark corridor with drapes on either side. Then emerge into this fantastic, amazing ballroom size living room with a billiards table in the middle and artwork all around. He tells me to strip to my keks. OK I guess - where are we going with this? He motions me to follow. We leave the house, (axes all still in their original place) and we walk round a wall to see a swimming pool. It's fairly small and green but refreshing after a days cycling.

We get dry, change and head out. My 'being' is forced to become liquid. I have no idea where we are going, what we are doing but I just have to go with the flow. We visit his mothers - pick up some food (peasants opium - ground poppy seeds with sugar) and wine, and leave. Next stop is a friends. We get into the living room and I meet Alexandre - Micoli tells him he's brought an English man and he almost explodes. He bursts into English like champagne when the cork is removed. And the words were as sweet to my ears!! I am told to sit and wait whilst they make dinner.

His children who are home from Uni to morn their grandfathers death walk in and Yleb (?) (his son) is a handsome chap who has a coolness about him that could freeze vodka, his daughter Maria is so striking I'm almost knocked backwards. Both have warm smiles and an excellent grasp of English.

The dinner prepared was all home grown or made, vegetables, bread , meats, honey, jams, soups. All made into traditional dishes. And this was all for me and Micoli - Alexandre drank vodka with me - toasting everything British - esp. his favourite author John Fauls (?) and director Ken Lodge - have I been living in a cave - are these guys famous??

At this point I'm starting to giggle inside as I do when ecstasy (not the illegal type!!) sweeps through me. A big Ukrainian guy taught me the word кайф - which is the feeling you have when you look at a beautiful view and think "this is living" - I was feeling this now!!

It turns out the family are passionate about Philosophy and Politics (Maria organisers demonstrations and has been gassed by police). I haven't lived. A powerful, intelligent, passionate girl - I (looking like a tramp) was smitten. :oD

So next, what happened?? Right - back to Micoli's for Billiards. Back to Al's to sleep.

Next morning there is no talk of me cycling, apart from to the reservoir where we're going to swim, eat pears and be happy. His children had seen us off - riding tandem on a single bike - before heading to back Uni.

Alexandre continued to educate me and show me the fantastic lives that I had been passing all through the Ukraine without realising. Popped back to Micoli for more billiards - I was better without vodka - and had a sauna (in his house) with many semi naked men who slap each other with sticks and rubbed on mud!! Surreal! ;o) Couple of kids round too so I was at home playing with them!! :oD

Oh my goodness - I've been going on.... this morning Gran cooked breakfast - i think she thought I needed filling out a bit - I think I had 8 eggs and a loaf of bread, biscuits, etc etc. She also got me a glass and started to pour vodka - at 8.30!!!! I'm still giggling from the look of disappointment on her face when I said 'no'. I had to have a small glass of wine instead!! :oD (again disappointment when I refused a refill)

No my bike is laden with gifts of fruit, and wine - I kept saying I was a lucky man - I really meant it!!

I found a whole cluster of beautiful sun flowers :oD

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dan, sounds quite an experience.

    I think the director he was talking about is Ken Loach. Makes a lot of films about working class life, he's a strong socialist. 'Kes' is probably his most famous film and the favourite film of both Jarvis Cocker and Chris Levell's mum.

    I think you'd like Kes, but I'll warn you, no famous landmarks are destroyed in the film.

    The author John Fowles is from Leigh-on-sea! I've not read any of his books though.