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Monday, 7 February 2011

My life as Fred West

When I've mentioned this trip to others, some have asked me why I want to do it. No matter how often I get that question I'm always slightly thrown by it. Why wouldn't I want to do it? It feels like a no-brainer. I'll be getting myself fit and healthy, seeing amazing places and meeting tons of interesting people. I'll down some of the best beer in the world in Belgium, scoff a pizza in its Neapolitan birthplace and possibly get shot dead by a genuine Russian gangster in Moscow. Even forgetting the money raised for charity and focussing purely on selfish reasons, it feels fairly negative to even consider that this trip might not be a good idea. It's like asking Mr. Kipling why he wanted to make his cakes exceedingly good rather than just a bit shit.

But I'm used to negativity. I love my mum but she's possibly the most negative person on the planet. Just as the Inuits reputedly have dozens of words for snow, my mum has three thousand different ways of saying, "That won't work!" We've already run through a couple of hundred reasons why my bike ride will fail and they've become progressively more ridiculous. For a while the favourite was that my bike would be stolen somewhere like Poland. Then we moved on to my impending mauling by a gang of desperate Albanians. It won't be long before the smart money is on my being eaten by a shark in the Alps.

Negativity prevents a lot of good stuff from happening. I'm interested in the idea of motivation. Why do some people live the life they dream of while others seem only to live for the weekends or for a couple of weeks each summer? Continuing this theme, the cycling is not the only element of this trip that doesn't meet with my mum's approval. As the second capital I'll tick off during my ride, I'm very much looking forward to pootling through Boris's new, cycle-friendlier London. The timing of my visit is crucial because I'll be spending a couple of days there enjoying the second half of a life-coaching course. I quite fancy the idea of life-coaching and helping people to help themselves to achieve what they really want. My mum finds this hysterical. "You can't be a life coach," she says. "You haven't lived!" Cheers, mum.

So the trial began. The case for the defence pointed out that, amongst other things, I've lived in four different countries and have travelled to four different continents. I've cycled the two and a half thousand kilometres from the Isle of Man to the Costa del Sol and have crewed even farther on a yacht from Marseilles to Cork. I was the director of my own software company, I finally managed to get a degree, I've run a marathon and I survived a near death experience. That was a busy weekend, I can tell you. I've stood on a stage and sung a song I wrote myself dressed as a sex-starved dinosaur, I've played the role of Fred West in a series of comedy sketches and I've even appeared under those same lights dressed in nothing but skimpy female underwear. As it really wasn't helping my case, I asked if this last bit could be struck from the record. C'mon, mum, I've lived! But then the judge revealed why I hadn't. It's because I don't have kids. To my mum, life equals children and without reproducing I may as well have spent the last forty years queueing in Greggs. The verdict was, and still is, guilty. This misses the point about life-coaching anyway. It's not about telling people how to live. It's about helping them to find what they really want to do and then to assist in putting together a plan of action. It's about a technique rather than recalling a store of personal experiences. You can become a life coach without having children. And without dressing up as Fred West.

But generally the family agrees that I should go and get a job rather than tossing around on my bike and reading books and stuff. At get togethers the house drips with a Protestant work ethic even if there's no actual religion present. But I don't want to do that. I want to have an adventure. I want to see all that Europe has to offer, and I want to finish those degrees. That's what I call living. That's my plan of action. So sod 'em! I'm doing this trip and I'll just have to take my chances in Switzerland with all those man-hungry Great Whites.

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steven@unicycle50.com